Oil minister Lien invites bids for more Arctic blocks

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Norway's Minister of Petroleum and Energy Tord Lien puts the thumb up for more drilling in the Barents Sea. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)
Norway’s Minister of Petroleum and Energy Tord Lien puts the thumb up for more drilling in the Barents Sea. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)
Additional blocks will be made ready for oil drilling in the Barents Sea as the Norwegian government on Monday announced the start of the 24th licensing round.

“Awarding prospective exploration acreage is a central element in order to maintain employment, activity and high value creation,” said Minister of Petroleum and Energy Tord Lien.

“This is particularly important in the present situation with weaker employment figures in the petroleum industry and related industries.”

Lien made the announcement at a joint press-conference with Prime Minister Erna Solberg during the opening of ONS, Norway’s largest biannual oil conference and exhibition taking place in Stavanger.

“A central element of the policy is to offer a high number of awards in prospective exploration acreage. Starting the 24th licencing round today is a concrete continuation of this policy,” said Solberg.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Prince Haakon visiting the Explorer North exhibition at ONS in Stavanger in 2015. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)
Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Prince Haakon visiting the Explorer North exhibition at ONS in Stavanger in 2015. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)

All the areas that have been opened for petroleum activities can be nominated in the 24th licensing round, according to the official press-release. However, exceptions apply to areas restricted through management plans, areas already covered by licenses and existing awards in predefined areas.

In the Barents Sea, large new areas were opened in the 23rd licensing round and the government says the 24th round will follow this principle of step by step exploration, which facilities continued exploration in the Barents Sea.

The Ministry of Petroleum and Energy will also accept nominations for blocks in the Norwegian- and North Seas.

‘Positive for Northern Norway’

Today’s announcement will continue to boost more activities in the high north, Regional Manager for the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association Geir Seljeseth told the Barents Observer.

“It means a continued development of the petroleum industry in the Barents Sea and that is positive for Northern Norway,” Seljeseth said.

Norway’s strategy for licensing rounds in newly opened and frontier areas, such as in northern- and southeastern Barents Sea, has mainly adhered to the principle of sequential exploration. This entails that results of wells in certain blocks in a given area should be available and evaluated before new blocks are announced in the same area.

This approach ensures that large areas can be mapped with relatively few exploration wells. In this manner, available information is used for further exploration, while the drilling of unnecessary, dry wells can be avoided.

Companies interested in new blocks are asked to send suggestions to the ninistry by November 30th.

‘Seems like the government has already forgotten the Paris Treaty’

After a summer with peak high temperatures in the Arctic, more oil-drilling in northern waters is met by strong resistance from the environmental movement.

The announcement is a desperate move by the government, Truls Gulowsen, head of Greenpeace Norway, told the Barents Observer.

“Greenpeace slams the announcement of yet another licensing round in the Barents Sea as a desperate, thoughtless and irresponsible unemployment measure for oil workers that need transition into new trades, not artificial oil jobs,” said Gulowsen.

“It seems the Norwegian Government has already forgotten that they ratified the Paris Treaty with a goal to stabilize the climate well below two degrees,” he added.

“They also seem to have forgotten the cost overruns and technical problems at the Goliat field, the renewable energy revolution and the fact that the just finished 23 licencing round is legally disputed as a possible breach of the Norwegian Constitution.”

Norway doesn’t need a desperate hunt for expensive and dangerous Arctic oil, but instead should look for new ideas and new jobs, said Gulowsen.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada:  Energy challenges in Canada’s North, Eye on the Arctic

China:  Chinese mega-deals in Yamal LNG, The Independent Barents Observer

Norway: OMV finds more oil in Barents Sea, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Big interest in new Arctic LNG: Novatek, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden:  Sweden to have 100 percent renewable energy by 2040, Radio Sweden

United States: Oil producers balk following new study calling Alaska’s LNG project uneconomic, Alaska News Dispatch

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Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer

Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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