Untapped billions wait offshore

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The sea floor off Norway’s northern coast contains an estimated NOK 500 billion (nearly USD 90 billion) worth of untapped oil and gas, estimates a report by the state Oil Directorate released on Friday. The state oil officials admit, though, to a considerable degree of uncertainty.

The long-awaited report predicts that drilling operations off Lofoten and Vesterålen could yield 1.3 billion barrels of oil or oil equivalents. That’s enough to spark the interest of the oil and gas industry, which is lobbying hard for drilling rights.

Oil exploration in the area is perhaps the most controversial issue confronting Norway’s three-party coalition government. Lofoten and Vesterålen are known for their rich fishing grounds and scenic beauty, and environmental groups want a complete ban on drilling in the area.

Two of the government’s three parties also oppose oil exploration off Lofoten, while the dominant Labour Party officially hasn’t taken a stand (saying it wanted to await reports like the Oil Directorate’s this week) and is quarreling internally over the issue, but has a long tradition of supporting industrial endeavors that would create jobs. Environmentalists fear Labour Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, despite his professed concern for the environment, will support oil operations off Lofoten.

Now the oil directorate estimates oil and gas reserves in the area equal to five or six times those found in the Goliat field.

The report was delivered to Oil and Energy Minister Terje Riis-Johansen of the Center Party, which opposes oil exploration off Lofoten. It will be used to determine whether the government will open the area to exploration.

Views and News staff