Norway's PSA Upholds Barents Sea Exploration Decision

The Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) has rejected appeals filed by the Green Warriors of Norway (Norges Miljøvernforbund), Bellona and Nature and Youth (Natur og Ungdom) concerning its decision to grant Norsk Hydro consent to carry out exploration drilling in production license 225 in the Barents Sea. At the same time, the Norwegian Pollution Control Authority (SFT) recommends that the discharge permit also be maintained.

"We are convinced that the planned drilling activity in the Barents Sea can be carried out in a completely satisfactory manner," says PSA director, Magne Ognedal.

Norsk Hydro and Statoil have planned to conduct three exploration drilling activities in the Barents Sea this winter using the mobile drilling rig Eirik Raude. On 28 October, Norsk Hydro received consent to drill exploration well 7220/6-1.

Norges Miljøvernforbund and Bellona/Natur og Ungdom appealed the consent decision. They also filed an appeal concerning the discharge permits issued by SFT for this exploration well.

As part of the PSA's regulatory responsibility for safety, emergency preparedness and working environment in the petroleum activities, we have coordinating tasks in relation to other governmental bodies with independent regulatory responsibility, including e.g. SFT. The appeal process has therefore been coordinated between SFT and the PSA, and there has been an ongoing dialogue and clarifications between the two bodies.

In the PSA's comments, submitted on 30 November to the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (ASD), which has formal responsibility for determining the outcome of the appeal, the conclusion is that we uphold our consent decision. At the same time, SFT has submitted its comments to the Ministry of Environment. SFT also recommends that the permit be maintained.

Thorough consideration

"SFT and the PSA have been working on this since June. We have given the matter thorough consideration, and have ensured that all relevant issues that have come up have been properly reviewed," emphasizes PSA director, Magne Ognedal.

Ognedal denies that the serious incident on Snorre A on 28 November (gas blowout from an injection well) is relevant in relation to evaluations linked to exploration drilling in the Barents Sea.

"Generally speaking, we can say that the challenges in both places consist of maintaining control over the oil and gas located under the seabed, or in pipelines and tanks. The point is that the issues in the Snorre incident cannot be compared with the challenges one faces during exploration drilling in the Barents Sea. Given the experience we have with petroleum activities on the Norwegian shelf, and the quality invested in the plans for exploration drilling in the Barents Sea, we feel secure that this activity can be carried out in a fully satisfactory manner," emphasizes director Magne Ognedal.

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