Norway has announced that it will open 92 new areas in the Arctic for oil and gas exploration. There are 78 areas in the Barents Sea, in the far north, and 14 areas in the Norwegian Sea, close to the Arctic Circle, as announced yesterday by the government in Oslo.
Facilitating the search is important for both Europe and Norway and the affected regions, Norwegian Energy Minister Terje Aasland said. The announcement comes within the scope of the annual attribution of oil production licenses in areas already explored.
Under an agreement between the parties reached in November, exploration in untouched areas will not be allowed until 2025. The plans presented will be subject to a public hearing.
The announcement was met with harsh criticism from environmentalists: the Norwegian government is preparing “a large and extremely aggressive series of concessions. At a time when both the UN and the International Energy Agency are clearly saying that there is no more room for more oil exploration if we are to meet climate targets,” said Truls Gulowsen of the Norwegian branch of the NGO Friends of the Earth.
The Barents Sea has long been considered promising by the oil industry. So far, however, only two oil fields are operational in Norwegian waters – the Snöhvit gas field and the Goliat oil field. Norway is Europe’s biggest supplier of natural gas and a major oil producer.