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Barents Sea reopened

December 15, 2003, 16:00 CET

Norway’s sector of the Barents Sea is to be reopened for petroleum operations, the Norwegian government said today, 15 December, when it also announced the country’s 18th licensing round.

An assessment of the Nordland VI area of the Norwegian Sea will be made when the integrated management plan for the Barents Sea has been produced.

The decision on the Barents Sea was announced by petroleum and energy minister Einar Steensnæs at a press conference today.

He also detailed which areas of the North and Norwegian Seas will be included in the 18th round, and said that awards can be expected before next summer.

“It’s very positive for us that the Barents Sea is being reopened after a three-year pause,” says Tor Fjæran, senior vice president for exploration operations in the Exploration & Production Norway business area.

“We’re looking forward to resuming exploration activities in these waters, and to following up the encouraging results of the last drilling campaign.”

He adds that Statoil will now contact the other operators in these waters in order to establish collaboration over a drilling campaign as early as next autumn.

“And we’re also pleased that the 18th round incorporates many interesting blocks both in the North Sea and in the Norwegian Sea.

“We’ll now be assessing the acreage on offer, and believe this can lay the basis for a higher level of activity. Our aim will be to start drilling as early as the spring of 2005.”

The group also gives high priority to blocks in the Nordland VI area off Lofoten as well as the Nordland VII and Troms II zones of the Norwegian Sea.

It regards these waters as highly interesting, but notes that opening Nordland VI has been difficult this time round.

Statoil’s aim is to be a prime mover in ensuring that new oil operations in northern areas are pursued without causing environmental damage.

Mr Fjæran says that zero harm, clean seas and coexistence with other industries will be guiding principles for petroleum activities in these waters.

He adds that Statoil applies tougher environmental standards to new operations on the northern NCS in order to ensure zero discharges to the sea.

The “ULB” report on year-round oil activities in the Norwegian Sea north of Lofoten and in the Barents Sea was published this summer.

A public consultation exercise on the impact assessment was completed on 1 October 2003, and the findings will be submitted to the Storting (parliament) before its Easter recess next year.