Official: Offshore expertise helping Norway in Barents Sea

Oct. 30, 2017
More than 5 decades of success off its coast farther south is helping Norway move ahead in seeking additional oil and gas resources in the Barents Sea, a government official indicated on Oct. 17.

More than 5 decades of success off its coast farther south is helping Norway move ahead in seeking additional oil and gas resources in the Barents Sea, a government official indicated on Oct. 17. The country also signed a delineation and data-sharing treaty with Russia in 2011 similar to one for the North Sea with Great Britain in the 1960s, said Lars Erik Aamot, director general for oil and gas in Norway's Petroleum and Energy Ministry.

"Companies began exploring in the North Sea in 1965, and Norway's resource base has been globally competitive since the 1970s," he said during a presentation at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "We received five development plans in 2016 for the Barents Sea, and 10 are expected this year. I'm confident we'll remain competitive."

Norway's Far North is both different from and similar to other global Arctic offshore regions, Aamot noted. Sea ice is not as big a problem because the Barents Sea is where the Gulf Stream terminates and the water is warmer. But depths and distances to shore are comparable, and winter temperatures can be just as harsh, he said.

"There's significant industry interest there because it has more resource potential than other places. Right now, there aren't many data points, so more wells will need to be drilled to determine what's there," Aamot said.

Costs of proposed projects there are comparable to elsewhere along the Norwegian continental shelf, with one relatively close to shore in shallow water looking competitive at a $30/bbl price, he said.

Aamot said that one multinational producer could reach an investment decision by Christmas on a Barents Sea project, which potentially could produce 500 billion bbl. More than 10 exploration wells have been drilled in the area so far in 2017, he added.

Offshore accidents that destroyed platforms and cost lives in the 1970s and '80s led both Norway and the multinational companies working there to improve safety and environmental protections, Aamot said. "Our risk-based approach requires companies to develop safety plans and demonstrate their effectiveness," he said.

"Discussions with the fishing industry have emphasized coexistence," Aamot said. "It has helped that growing oil and gas interest in the Barents Sea is helping move coastal communities out of a fishing recession into new economic growth. But it's also important to communicate with the fishing industry so concerns about using seismic are addressed."

Asked about the Trump administration's stated goal of achieving US energy dominance, Aamot said that Norway simply wants to develop its resources for its citizens' benefit. "We have no ambition to be an energy superpower," he said.