Countdown for Statoil’s northernmost ever mission

Statoil moves closer to the Arctic ice edge.

The Norwegian company hopes for a kind of moonlanding in its Apollo project, the world’s northernmost ever oil drilling operation.


The Norwegian Petroleum Safety Authority has given its green light for Statoil’s exploration drilling at the Apollo structure in the Barents Sea. The operation, which will be conducted with the Transocean Spitsbergen rig, will take place in May, the authority informs in a press release.

Not quite comparable with the historical Apollo 11 landing on the moon in 1969. Still, the drilling of the Apollo well marks an unprecedented step into the far Arctic by an oil company.

The drilling will be the northernmost in the world ever. The Apollo structure is located close to the 74th latitude, not far from the Spitsbergen waters. As previously reported, the well is located in the Hoop area, a perspective part of the Barents Sea. In 2013, oil company OMV made a highly promising discovery in the neighboring Wisting Central structure. Experts believe that the Hoop structure stretches into the Svalbard waters.

The OMV estimates the resources of its Wisting Central discovery to up to 160 million barrels of oil and Statoil believes the nearby Apollo will include additional hydrocarbons.

Statoil’s drilling this month comes as part of an increasing Norwegian engagement in the Barents Sea. In the country’s 22 License Round, a total of 72 licenses to Barents blocks were issued. In the upcoming 23 Round, another more than 60 Arctic licenses are expected to be offered to the oil drillers.

As previously reported, environmentalists accuse Norway for pushing the limits in Arctic waters. “By opening for oil drilling this close to the ice edge, the Norwegian oil minister is pushing the limits”, Greenpeace Arctic Adviser Erlend Tellnes told BarentsObserver. “A spill would be almost impossible to clean up and could have dramatic consequences for wildlife”, he argues.