"Don’t drill along border to Russia"

Drilling rigs like the Aker Barents (picture) should not yet be given access to the waters bordering to Russia, the Norwegian Climate and Pollution Agency warns.

Preparedness mechanisms are not ready for oil drilling in the Norwegian southeastern part of the Barents Sea, the Climate and Pollution Agency says.

There should not be issued any licenses in the southeastern part of the Norwegian Barents Sea before the preparedness systems for the area are sufficiently developed, the agency says in a press release.

The Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy is currently holding a hearing on drilling in the waters, which until the summer of 2011 were part of the Norwegian-Russian disputed zone.

“This area is located far north and has a tough climate with dangerous icing on installations and equipment”, the agency says in its input to the hearing. “Drifting ice and sudden weather changes, as well as little infrastructure, can make cleanup operations of acute spills difficult and partly impossible”, agency leader Ellen Hambro says. A spill in the area would most likely drift into Russian waters, but are unlikely to reach coastal areas, data from the agency indicate. 

The environmental watchdog also argues that this part of the Barents Sea is of major importance for regional fish stocks and that the polar ice brim some years stretches into the area, thus making it available for polar bear, seal and walrus.

The agency also criticizes the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy for an “unnecessarily quick” assessment process. More time should be set aside for studies of the area and the results of seismic studies should be made available before the consequence study, the authority underlines.