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Environmental campaigners and analysts are criticizing Norway’s plan to open new areas for oil drilling in the Arctic, saying that operations could threaten pristine areas and wildlife and potentially strain Norway’s relations with Russia, which has great ambitions for Arctic development, the Guardian reports.
Norway’s Ministry of Petroleum and Energy proposed in June to offer 136 blocks for oil and gas exploration in the licensing round for less explored areas on its shelf, including 125 blocks in the Arctic Barents Sea that are currently unavailable for drilling. The so-called 25th numbered licensing round – expected to be announced in the fall of 2020 after consultation on the proposed areas for oil drilling – typically includes frontier parts of the Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS).
The ministry proposes nine frontier areas for exploration, including eight areas in the Barents Sea and one area in the Norwegian Sea. The public consultation on the proposal ends on Wednesday, August 26.
According to Norway’s oil ministry, it will be the frontier regions that are most likely to host sizeable new oil discoveries.
Critics of the plan, including Greenpeace and Natur og Ungdom (Nature and Youth), criticized the government’s plan to open new areas in the Barents Sea to oil drilling as soon as the proposal was submitted to consultation in June.
“Although this is not the first time, it is still shocking to see how willing the government is to set aside environmental advice to drill for oil in vulnerable marine areas. Several of the blocks are north of the scholarly definition of the ‘ice edge’ zone, that is, the area where ice may occur during the year,” Nature and Youth leader Therese Hugstmyr Woie said.
“Given that we don’t yet have the technology to clean up spills in an Arctic environment, it really doesn’t make any sense to continue with offshore extraction there,” Ilan Kelman, a professor of risk, resilience and global health at UCL and Agder University in Norway, told the Guardian.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com