As global warming and the rapid melting of glaciers in the Arctic takes place, Norway is about to expand its oil and gas production
The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate has announced that 25 companies will participate in the annual Awards in Predefined Areas (APA) licensing round. The round comprises blocks in predefined areas in the North Sea, Norwegian Sea and Barents Sea.
This year, the largest number of new blocks, namely 78, are being offered exactly in the Barents Sea. For example, only 14 exploration licenses will be issued for oil and gas production in the Norwegian Sea.
The Directorate announced the map showing licensed acreage within the APA boundaries as of May 10th, 2023. According to it, the northernmost blocks are located at 74° North, the same parallel as Bear Island.
The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate shows its enormous interest in the Arctic region. A photo of the Egde Island in Svalbard was included in their press release, even though there are no plans for oil and gas exploration there. At least, until now. However, a number of the APA proposed blocks are very close to the Svalbard Fishery Protection Zone, the 200 nautical miles zone that surrounds the archipelago.
In response to a question as to why this photo was chosen, the Directorate stated the following:
“It is chosen because it generally is geologically interesting and we picked it as part of an internal photo competition in due time before the application deadline,” says Ola Anders Skauby, Director Communication, public affairs and emergency response at the Directorate.
Nevertheless, there is another opinion on the matter. Truls Gulowsen, leader of Friends of the Earth Norway, is critical towards the Directorate.
“The tendentious use of the Egde Island, which is located far north of areas that are planned opened [for exploration], strengthens the impression that they are doing PR for Arctic oil,”Truls Gulowsen, leader of Friends of the Earth Norway, says in a comment to the Barents Observer.
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Despite existing opposition from domestic and international environmental organizations, the Norwegian government has no intention of backing down and only continues to expand the Arctic territories available for oil drilling and gas production.
“Without exploration and new discoveries, we will neither be able to maintain the production of oil and gas over time or further develop the petroleum sector and all the jobs in the industry,” says Terje Aasland, Norway’s Minister of Petroleum and Energy.
“It is very good that the oil companies are showing such great interest in the awarding of new production licenses and exploration on the Norwegian continental shelf,” he adds.
In response to this statement Truls Gulowsen said, “The claim that there is a “big interest” in the APA [license round] without any other supporting arguments beyond the number of companies participating […], the government indicates that it is more occupied with preserving an illusion about the Barents Sea as attractive petroleum region than telling the truth to the Norwegian people.”