Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said at a press conference that “information we have received today strengthens further suspicions” that the gas leaks from Russia’s Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea are the result of sabotage. Støre also sought to calm fears that Norwegian pipelines may be sabotaged as well.
“This has created a serious situation,” Støre told reporters, while stressing that no concrete threats have been made against Norwegian oil and gas installations. Oil companies including Equinor and Shell have boosted security, meanwhile, and Støre confirmed that police have raised their preparedness and that Norwegian defense forces were standing by to help.
Støre said his government and the industry are well aware of the “special responsibility” they have to provide security around the installations and as Europe’s largest supplier of natural gas. He stated that Norway’s petroleum production is now defined as an “essential national function” as is its transport, and that naval vessels and other military presence were likely to be seen around some oil platforms.
Equinor had already decided to boost its security following the suspected pipeline sabotage in the Baltic and recent observations of unidentified drones flying around platforms in the North Sea. Special measures are thus in place at the company’s offices, installations, supply vessels, helicopter take-off and landing pads. Preparedness was also high at Equinor’s Melkøya gas plant off Hammerfest and at its refinery and other facilities at Mongstad among other locations. Details of the extra measures were not revealed.
An assistant professor at Norway’s military college (Forsvarets høgskole) said that drones can only be shot down by police or miltary forces and only if they’re creating a potentially dangerous situation and threaten life or health.
The recent drone activity and the suspected sabotage have raised concerns among offshore workers. Trade union federation LO thinks it’s time to dispatch Coast Guard and other naval vessels to protect oil and gas platforms and those working on them.
“We need more presence out here, and for the Coast Guard or Navy to fend off the drones or take action against them,” Henrik Solvorn Fjeldsbø, a local labour union leader in the North Sea, told state broadcaster NRK. Workers, meanwhile, have been asked to report any unusual activity on the oil fields or at faciities on land.