Eight new production licenses in the Barents Sea | Polarjournal
An oil rig is being towed in the Stavanger shipping area in Norway. Image: Odfjell Drilling

Oil exploration in the Barents Sea continues, with Norway issuing eight new production licenses. While Greenpeace and Young Friends of the Earth win a legal battle against the state.

On January 16, the Norwegian Ministry of Energy declared the opening of 62 new gas and oil production licenses in the North Sea, Norwegian Sea and Barents Sea, compared with 47 last year. These new authorizations involve 24 oil companies and 16 operators.

On the one hand, this upward trend reflects the change in Europe’s energy strategy, which since the sanctions against Russia has been sourcing from across the Atlantic and from Norway.

On the other hand, Norway is anticipating the end of production from certain North Sea oilfields by encouraging exploration and discoveries in this area.

In the Barents Sea, eight new oil and gas production licenses were awarded. By 2023, only two licenses had been granted, with a promise to double their number by 2024.

The areas in blue are newly open to oil and gas production in the Barents Sea, in 2023 on the left (based on 2022 applications) and in 2024 on the right. Discovered gas fields are shown in red and oil fields in green. Images: Norwegian Offshore Directorate

“Last year, I specifically encouraged companies to explore opportunities in the Barents Sea,” said Terje Aasland, Minister of Energy. “This shows that several companies have responded positively to the call, and that they are conscious of their social responsibilities. Proving more gas resources is important for profitability, by increasing the export capacity from this region.”

The development of extraction remains highly critical. In the Norwegian Sea, the state has just lost a legal battle launched by Greenpeace Norway and Young Friends of the Earth Norway before the Oslo District Court. The awarding of three production licenses – Breidablikk, Yggdrasil and Tyrving – was deemed to be non-compliant.

“The ruling establishes that the Breidablikk, Yggdrasil and Tyrving oil and gas fields were approved on an illegal basis and that production must be stopped immediately,” said Frode Pleym, head of Greenpeace in Norway.

“As the court ruling confirms, oilfield emissions would have catastrophic effects on the global climate, on people and on the planet,” said Gytis Blaževičius, head of Young Friends of the Earth Norway.

Frode Pleym, head of Greenpeace Norway, and Gina Gylver, head of Young Friends of the Earth Norway, at the Oslo District Court. Image: Rasmus Berg / Greenpeace

The impact study did not take into account the greenhouse gas emissions produced by oil consumption, which is an obligation enshrined in the country’s constitution.

“This is a domestic law reasoning that could be appealed as it is a judgment of the Oslo District Court,” explains Youna Lyons, maritime policy analyst trained in international law and oceanography.

In addition to the immediate suspension of concessions, the French government was ordered to pay Greenpeace and Young Friends of the Earth around 280,000 euros in damages and legal costs.

Among the companies affected by these decisions is Equinor Energy AS. It also discovered 2 million barrels in an area 150 kilometers west of Bergen, on January 22, in a batch that the company co-operates with Aker BP.

In the Barents Sea, the latter company returns after a long absence. She had left the region after several setbacks drilling dry wells. “We have a new team, new ideas and new terrain,” said Karl Johnny Hersvik, CEO of Aker BP.

Camille Lin, PolarJournal

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