Norway announced that it plans to offer a record number of gas and oil exploration areas in the Arctic to companies for exploration, which prompted environmental non-governmental organizations to denounce this “aggressive” promotion of the use of fossil fuels.
The Scandinavian country, which is one of the leading producers of natural gas and oil in Europe, proposed 92 exploration areas, including 78 in the Barents Sea in the far north.
The other 14 are in the Norwegian Sea, near the Arctic Circle.
“The new explorations are essential for the further development of the Norwegian regions,” which are also important for Europe, Norwegian Oil and Energy Minister Terje Asland said in a statement on Tuesday.
This announcement is part of the annual licensing round for exploration in “mature” areas, as they are called, that is, areas that have been explored on a large scale.
The centre-left government, which lacks a parliamentary majority, reached an agreement with the Socialist Left Party last year to ban drilling in unexplored areas by 2025.
Government proposals to open up so many areas for exploration has sparked outrage among environmental organizations.-
Trols Gulosen, head of the Norway branch of the “Friends of the Earth” organization, condemned the “very aggressive” new round of concessions proposed, at a time when the United Nations and the International Energy Agency are urging to reduce oil exploration to achieve the goals of the climate conference.--
The NGO said the Norwegian government’s proposal violated the obligation not to explore virgin lands.
But the right-wing opposition, staunch defender of the Norwegian oil sector, saw this move as a “tactical game” by the government, to give itself bargaining chips to be used in future negotiations with the socialist left.
The oil industry body, Offshore Norge, welcomed the opening of “attractive areas” for exploration.
Oil companies must submit their applications later this year, and licenses will be awarded in January 2024.
The Barents Sea is a productive area for the energy sector, but so far only two sites in Norwegian waters have extracted oil and gas.