Norway Decides to Keep Ban on Lofoten Arctic Oil Development

The Norwegian Government has decided not to continue further petroleum activities in the area Nordland VI outside Lofoten. This question will again be considered when the integrated management plan for the Barents Sea is completed, says Einar Steensnaes, Minister of Petroleum and Energy.

The Norwegian Government has also decided to allow for further all-year petroleum activity in the Barents Sea south, except for certain especially valuable areas. This implies that all existing licenses in the Barents Sea now can resume their activities, says the Minister.

The Government has today decided not to go on with further petroleum activity in the Nordland VI area. The special character of this area as a spawning ground for important fish stocks and as a fishing ground has been important for this decision. The Government finds that, as of now, it has not been demonstrated that adequate consideration to the fisheries and the environment can be attended to if petroleum activities are allowed in the area. The issue of all-year petroleum activity in this area will be considered when the integrated management plan for Barents Sea is completed.

This implies that the two production licenses which have been awarded in the area cannot resume their activities, and that no new awards will be given. There will accordingly be no petroleum activity in this area until the integrated management plan for the Barents Sea is completed.

In light of the results from the ULB and the written submissions from the public hearing, the Government has today decided to allow for further petroleum activity in already opened areas in the Barents Sea south, with some exceptions. The exceptions are the coastal areas of Troms and Finnmark and the especially valuable areas: the polar front, the ice edge, Bear Island and Tromsoflaket.

Parliament approved the Snøhvit development in 2002. This field is located partly in Tromsøflaket. To improve the project economics it is important to tie in additional resources to the field. The Government will therefore allow further exploration for additional gas resources that may be tied in to Snohvit.

The field Goliat is located close to Tromsøflaket. The Government has decided that the field's licensees may drill the necessary appraisal wells to clarify if the field can be developed. It must be emphasised that this decision in no way prejudices a decision as to whether a development of the Goliat field will be approved. A possible development will be decided upon after the licensees submit a Plan for Development and Operation for the Ministry's approval. In connection with such a plan it will be up to the companies involved to demonstrate that a development properly takes into account issues relating to the environment and the risks of pollution in the area.

In opening up for further petroleum activity in the Barents Sea south now, the government has made it possible for the oil companies to drill three wells, as they have indicated, in the licensed area in Lopparygen, Nordkappbassenget and Goliat in the fall of 2004 and in the spring of 2005. This will give valuable information with regard to the prospectivity of the area and at the same time have a positive effect on the low level of activity on the Norwegian continental shelf.

The Government's proposal is based on the fundamental condition that safety and oil spill protection are fully ensured. Oil spill protection must be strengthened compared to today's level. In co-operation with other relevant authorities, I will implement strict conditions with regard to oil spill protection in the area.