Norway Oil Ministry to Open Arctic for Exploration Soon

The Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy anticipates that areas offshore northern Norway will be opened for oil and gas exploration. The areas will be thown open to exploration despite opposition by environmentalists and the fisheries industry. Operators want to get new acreage in the north, stretching high into the Arctic, because resources further south in the Norwegian part of the North Sea are declining.

Statoil has called for a rapid decision to remove uncertainties, saying that investment will drop drastically unless new areas are opened. Oil minister Einar Steensnaes said on Tuesday that a decision would come in 2004.

Statoil has been allowed to develop the giant Snoehvit gas field in the Barents Sea, but the decision sparked a political debate prompting the oil ministry to ban on any further developments until a detailed impact study is in place.