Full speed for Barents oil

Norwegian Minister of Petroleum and Energy Ola Borten Moe pointing at the petroleum resources in the Barents Sea.

Norway’s oil minister Ola Borten Moe launch impact assessment study for the earlier disputed part of the Barents Sea with the aim to open the waters for drilling. Oil companies and regional politicians in the north are applauding.


The Norwegian Oil Industry Association (OLF) had invited the petroleum actors in Norway to meet with regional politicians and administrations in at a conference on the shores of the Barents Sea Tuesday. The majority of oil companies and supply industry were present at the conference in Kirkenes, Norway’s northern border town to Russia. 

The Norwegian border town of Kirkenes.
Kirkenes could be the new hub for Norway’s oil boom in the eastern sector of the Barents Sea. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

The Kirkenes area is believed to be the main hub for supplies to the eastern part of Norway’s future Arctic oil and gas boom.

Starting shot
In Oslo, oil minister Ola Borten Moe made “the starting shot” for the impact assessment study for the south eastern part of the Norwegian sector in the Barents Sea, simultaneously as the petroleum industry met in Kirkenes for dialog on how the new area can be explored.

- The unopened areas in the north play an important role in the development of petroleum activities on the Norwegian Continental Shelf for the next 40 years. If we succeed in our efforts, it will lay the foundation for a whole new era in the north, Ola Borten Moe says in a press-release.

Big smile for oil; Norway’s oil minister Ola Borten Moe wants to open the southeastern sector of the Barents Sea for drilling. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

The Ministry calls for input to the assessment study within the coming three months. Environmental concerns and fishery industry question that might come in conflict with the proposed oil drilling in the area have in other words busy days this winter. Deadline is February 29th.

The study will then be followed by a 15 months period before the parliament may consider opening this new Arctic area for oil and gas drilling.

-Must create local value
Important to the impact assessment process is the involvement of local authorities and key interest groups that are likely to have a particular interest in the matter, the ministry writes in their suggestion for program for the study.

At the oil conference in Kirkenes, local mayor Cecilie Hansen has a clear message: - We want oil and gas to be taken onshore here, we want to get value from the resources located in the sea outside our coast, she says.

The area in question for opening for oil-drilling is the Norwegian sector of the earlier disputed part of the Barents Sea. Norway reached a maritime border line agreement with Russia in 2010, and just a few minutes after the agreement went into force this July, the first Norwegian seismic vessels started geological research in the area. 11.500 line-kilometres of seismic shooting were conducted from July to mid-September this year, and the seismic research will continue next summer.

High expectations
Speaking at the dialog conference in Kirkenes on Tuesday, State Secretary Per Rune Henriksen in the Ministry of Oil and Energy said the first studies of the geological structures will be ready by 2013.

- We know that there is oil and gas both east and west of the area that now can be opened if the impact assessment study approved it, Henriksen said.

He explains the speedy process with the impact assessment study with the fact that Norway already has plenty of scientific date from the Barents Sea. Norway and Russia have for a long period cooperated on maritime research in the Barents Sea.

Strenghtens cooperation with Russia
- Russia will be involved in the impact assessment study, Per Rune Henriksen assures and underline that what Norway now is doing in the Barents Sea will strengthen the cooperation with Russia.

Energy Exerter (BarentsObserver,com)
Jack-up rig in the harbour of Kirkenes. Photo: Jonas Karlsbakk

If petroleum resources are found in geological structures that are crossing the maritime border, the delimitation treaty stipulates clearly how Norway and Russia will share the resources.

In its White Paper on the High North presented last Friday, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs says the maritime delimitation deal with Russia opens a new chapter in the energy dialog between the two countries.

An expert group will be established as part of the energy dialog in order to secure that both Norway and Russia have a good understanding of the challenges connected to potential joint petroleum activities in the Barents Sea that follows the delimitation deal.