Norway to Announce Decision Monday on Arctic Oil Development

The Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy said it will announce on Monday its decision on whether to reopen environmentally sensitive Arctic waters to oil and gas exploration.

Petroleum and Energy Minister Einar Steensnaes will hold a press conference in Oslo where he will say whether oil companies will be allowed to develop oil and gas resources in the southern Barents Sea and around the Lofoten Islands in the northern Norwegian Sea.

Steensnaes will also announce which offshore exploration blocks will be made available to oil companies in the country's 18th licensing round.

The area around Lofoten, as well as the southern Barents Sea, has been off limits to oil and gas exploration since 2001, when a comprehensive environmental study, now completed, was undertaken.

Oil companies, such as Norway's Statoil and Norsk Hydro, are keen to restart work on licenses already granted in the two areas. They also want to explore further what they say are some of the most prospective areas remaining in Norwegian waters.