The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) said on Tuesday that its latest estimates show that the undiscovered oil and gas resources in the Barents Sea are twice as large as previously thought, drawing criticism from green groups over potential opening up of drilling in sensitive iced areas.
The NPD has recently mapped the eastern part of the northern Barents Sea, a large part of which is located in the previously disputed area, “and most of the new information has been collected after the demarcation line agreement with Russia entered into force in the summer of 2011,” the Norwegian oil regulator said.
A large part of the resources in the new area—which are estimated at 1.4 billion standard cubic meters of oil equivalents—are not open for drilling, according to the NPD.
The Barents Sea could hold a total of 2.8 billion standard cubic meters of oil equivalents, equal to 17.6 billion barrels, according to Reuters.
Environment groups WWF and Greenpeace argue that the publishing of resource estimates in areas not open to drilling undermine pledges not to open ice-capped waters to drilling.
“This is a clear pressure from the oil industry to open new exploration areas to keep employment, ignoring concerns about environment and profitability,” Truls Gulowsen, head of Greenpeace Norway, told Reuters. Related: Low Oil Prices Won’t Deter Russia From Arctic Drilling
Last month, Norway’s government announced initial plans to open a record number of oil exploration blocks in the Barents Sea, sparking renewed criticism from environmental groups. Norway’s Ministry of Petroleum and Energy is proposing 102 blocks in the 24th licensing round, of which nine blocks are in the Norwegian Sea, and a record-high 93 blocks – in the Barents Sea. A considerable number of the blocks proposed in the Barents Sea are located north of the northernmost oil discovery in Norway.
The plans for nominating so many Arctic exploration blocks come as Greenpeace sues Norway over the previous, 23rd, licensing round, for oil companies to drill in the Arctic Barents Sea.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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