More than half a year after the original schedule, Norway’s Minister of Petroleum and Energy Tord Lien on Tuesday announced the country’s 23rd License Round. The announcment includes a total of 57 blocks, 34 of them in the formerly disputed waters with Russia. The minister calls the license round “a milestone” in Norwegian petroluem history.
“For the first time since 1994, we will explore an entirely new area on the Norwegian Shelf. This will generate unique possibilities for value creation, growth and employment opportunities, particularly for Northern Norway,” Tord Lien says in a press release.
Drilling along the border
The license map shows that another eight blocks are located immediately along the borderline with Russia. Those blocks will inevitably stir controversy. Arctic oil expert Johan Petter Barlindhaug, told BarentsObserver that Norway should abstain from drilling along the borderline considering the current chilly relations with Russia.
Meanwhile, Barents Secretariat Senior Adviser Rune Rafaelsen believes drilling along the borderline will promote trust and cooperation in the region.
Drilling along the ice edge
The 23rd License Round map also shows that eight blocks are located to the north of the 74th parallel, not far from the area covered by ice during parts of the year. Minister Lien argues that all the new license blocks are well south of the ice-covered area and that oil exploration should be considered safe.
In order to follow up the issue of the ice edge, he commissions the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate to prepare a technical assessment report on the significance of sea ice in areas of oil exploration.
Environmentalists are upset about the high latitudes of the new licenses. In a comment, the Bellona Foundation calls the license round a “catastrophe for the environment” and the Nature and Youth organization says that the Norwegian government “should be ashamed”.
The new licenses are planned issued to companies in the course of the first half of 2016.