Norway opens more Arctic areas to oil industry amid opposition

Offshore drilling near Norway Image: ConocoPhillips

Norway, Western Europe’s biggest oil producer, is offering fresh exploration licenses in the far north less than a week after the Supreme Court finished hearing an appeal over earlier Arctic permits.

The so-called 25th licensing round covers nine areas, eight of which are located in the Barents Sea and one further south in the Norwegian Sea, the Petroleum and Energy Ministry said in a statement on Thursday. It includes 136 blocks across both seas.

Norway’s oil and gas industry has been keen for new acreage to offset an expected decline in production in the middle of the next decade. The Barents is estimated to hold more than 60 per cent of the total undiscovered resources off Norway, with over half of this in areas not open for petroleum activities, according to the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate.

“New discoveries are necessary to ensure continued activity, ripple effects, employment and governmental revenues throughout the country,” Petroleum and Energy Minister Tina Bru said in the statement.

Offering licenses so far north is controversial, with environmental organizations contesting similar awards in the courts. The Supreme Court will at the turn of the year rule on an appeal by Greenpeace and Nature & Youth that oil production in the area breached both the constitution and Norway’s commitments to the Paris agreement. The plaintiffs lost earlier cases in both the district and appeals courts.

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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