Norway now bigger in the Barents

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Norway officially expanded its territory in the Barents Sea this week, when its newly agreed offshore border with Russia took effect just over a year after a breakthrough in lengthy negotiations with the Russians was announced. Now a Russian researcher thinks Norway can tap into more oil and gas resources than it’s enjoyed in the entire North Sea.

Foreign Ministers Jonas Gahr Støre of Norway (left) and Sergei Lavrov of Russia met once again in Oslo earlier this year, to sign more papers ratifying their agreement on dividing up the Barents Sea. PHOTO: Utenriksdepartementet

Leonid Surgutsjov, a researcher at  the IRIS research institute in Stavanger, told the Moscow Times that the Norwegian portion of what previously was a “grey zone” in the Barents is probably twice as rich in resources than all of Norway’s oil and gas reserves in the North Sea.

Industry experts have also been optimistic about oil and gas potential in Norway’s new territorial waters. Despite ongoing environmental concerns and limitations, there’s great pressure to tap the potential, with many plans for exploration and development in the works.

The so-called “grey zone agreement” that applied to the area for years ended on Thursday when the new historic agreement on the so-called delelinjen (dividing line) agreement between Norway and Russia took effect. It opens up for oil and gas exploration in another 175,000 square kilometers of Arctic waters.

That means Norway’s already substantial oil and gas revenues can rise further, since both Russia and Norway can now proceed with oil and gas exploration in their respective areas of the Barents. Seismic examinations already have indicated large oil and gas reserves in the area.

Oil companies including Norway’s own Statoil are eager to get to work in the area, and mainland areas of northern Norway are eager as well, for the jobs and economic development that oil and gas operations can bring.

Environmental organizations are standing by, however, keen to put the brakes on operations in the sensitive Arctic area that could threaten the seas and contribute to climate change. Two of the parties forming Norway’s left-center government coalition remain highly skeptical over offshore drilling, while political debate likely will erupt in Parliament as well.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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