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“A spill here will have devastating effects”

An oil spill at 73 degrees north could reach the ice edge and the Bear Island within few days.

Norway is moving close to the Arctic ice edge in its new oil license round. The country is pushing the limits, environmentalists warn.

Location

As previously reported, the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy in the upcoming 23rd License Round intends to offer a total of 61 licenses in northern waters. Among the new licenses will be four blocks located at 73 degrees north, on the latude of the Bear Island and the Svalbard Fisheries Protection Zone.

Never before has drilling been conducted this far north in the Barents Sea.

Environmentalists now issue a strong warning against the plans. According to Greenpeace, an oil spill in the area could have devastating consequences for the vulnerable Arctic environment. “By opening for oil drilling this close to the ice edge, the Norwegian oil minister is pushing the limits”, Greenpeace Arctic Adviser Erlend Tellnes says to BarentsObserver. “A spill would be almost impossible to clean up and could have dramatic consequences for wildlife”, he adds.

The median ice edge at mid-winter stretches south of the Bear Island, maps from the National Snow and Ice Data Center confirm.

Greenpeace also believes that the high north drilling will be a breach with the government’s  parliament agreement with two support parties. That agreement states that oil drilling should not take place in areas close to the ice edge.

A study commissioned by Greenpeace and conducted by the Norwegian Meteorological Institute concludes that a spill from one of the northernmost Norwegian blocks could hit the ice edge in only 14 days.

The 23rd Norwegian License Round will be announced in the course of the first half of 2014. Before that time however, oil major Statoil is planning a drilling operation at the Apollo field, another far northern structure. The Apollo well will be drilled presumably in May and possibly by the Ocean Vanguard rig, Petro.no reports