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January 2010

Vol. 15, No. 4 Week of January 24, 2010

Our Arctic Neighbors: Norway ministries clash over development

Norway’s Ministry of Petroleum and Energy should not expand the next Awards in Predefined Areas licensing round to the Barents Sea because several of the new areas proposed by the government are close to the coast and particularly vulnerable, Norway’s Climate and Pollution Agency said in a release Jan. 7. CPA is part of the Ministry of the Environment.

“We generally believe that all the proposed drilling areas in the Barents Sea should be announced through regular licensing rounds. In those cases the treatment of each case will be more thorough,” said Signe Namdal of the CPA. In Norway’s regular licensing rounds companies nominate blocks where they would like to explore for oil and gas. In the APA rounds the government defines the blocks in advance.

The CPA argues that there is little knowledge about the natural resources in some of the proposed areas.

“Good knowledge about natural resources and vulnerability should be considered as important as good knowledge about geology before an area is singled out for energy development in this plan for allocation of predefined areas,” Namdal said.

Examples of areas that the CPA is concerned about include the Finnmark East and West blocks, located at 71 degrees latitude, which are in areas that may be vulnerable in parts of the year, according to the release.

The CPA recommends that thorough surveying should be carried out there before the blocks are made available, including mapping and assessment of fauna and seabed conditions.

The APA system ensures that very large areas close to existing and planned infrastructure are available for the industry, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate said on its Web site. The APA area will be expanded as new areas mature, but the area is not to be reduced, the directorate said.

—Sarah Hurst






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