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Minister Says Norway Must Prepare For Arctic Oil Race With Russia

Norway should map the northernmost areas of its part of the Barents Sea close to the Russian maritime border in order to protect its economic interests in the Arctic, Norway’s Minister of Petroleum Terje Søviknes said at an energy conference on Wednesday.

“We need to start the discussion about what to do in the far north. We see a development on the Russian side of the border, where they are drilling and likely will find oil,” Søviknes said at the conference, as quoted by Reuters.

Norway and Russia agreed in 2010 to end their dispute over areas of the Barents Sea and signed a treaty to outline the maritime borders in the Arctic region that is thought to contain large amounts of oil and gas reserves.

Nearly two-thirds of Norway’s undiscovered oil and gas resources are located in the Barents Sea, with most of them in the north Barents Sea that is not open to drilling, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) said last week.

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Statoil drilled last year the most promising exploration well in the Barents Sea, Korpfjell—the first well drilled in the Norwegian section of a formerly disputed area between Norway and Russia, and the northernmost wildcat well drilled on the Norwegian shelf, but it yielded no oil.

Back in 2016, Norway and Russia agreed to exchange seismic data from the areas around the demarcation line in the Barents Sea.

Today Minister Søviknes said, as quoted by Reuters:

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“If they come across a big find that straddles the border, we must be prepared to do our utmost to secure Norwegian economic interests ... This is why we must continue to map out these areas.”

Related: CNPC Expects Robust Oil Demand Growth In China

The exploration licenses on the Russian side of the Barents Sea border are held by Russian oil giant Rosneft, which plans to resume drilling in the area this year.

After a disappointing Barents Sea drilling campaign in Norway in 2017, companies have not given up on the Norwegian Arctic and will return to drill this year as well, but they will also prioritize more mature areas like the North Sea and the Norwegian Sea.

Norway’s authorities are concerned that without new large discoveries, the country’s oil production faces a decline after 2023.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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