Discharge permit for drilling in the Barents Sea

October 19, 2004, 01:30 CEST

The Norwegian Pollution Control Authority (SFT) had given Hydro a discharge permit for exploration drilling in the Barents Sea, or more specifically for the drilling of well 7220/6-1, which is midway between Sørøya on the coast of Finnmark and Bjørnøya. An emissions permit has also been given.

"Our application was thoroughly prepared on the basis of the conditions for new exploration activities in the Barents Sea. For this reason we expected the Norwegian Pollution Control Authority to issue the permit. The application was the result of good cooperation with Statoil, which will operate two exploration wells in the Barents Sea after well 7220/6-1 is completed," points out Hydro's head of exploration in northern Norway, Mogens Ramm.

The drilling operation shall be carried out by the semi-submersible drilling rig "Eirik Raude", which has been specially built for challenging operations in deep waters and in Arctic conditions. The rig is currently being made ready at Ølen in Sunnhordland.

"Eirik Raude" came to Norway at the end of September after having drilled several deep water wells in the north-west Atlantic, east of Canada.

The Petroleum Safety Authority gave the rig a declaration of conformity for the operation in Norwegian waters on 15 September. An appeal for such a declaration was made by the environmental organizations Nature and Youth and Bellona, but the appeal was turned down by the authority as the organizations did not fulfill the requirements of proximity to the case.

Expecting protests

Ramm expects there will be protests against the Norwegian Pollution Authority's permit from several bodies and interest organizations before the closing date for submitting complaints in three weeks. It will therefore be at least five weeks before drilling can commence, in other words at the beginning of December at the earliest. The operation is expected to take at least 60 days if discoveries are made that require further evaluation.

The water depth in the area is 375 metres, and wells will be drilled down to 1,625 metres. Hydro has pointed out that the drilling operation will take place at a period with a low level of vulnerable resources in the area.

The planned drilling will be completed in accordance with the authorities' conditions laid down in the Lofoten/Barents Sea study, which forms the basis for the government's reopening of parts of the Barents Sea for exploration activities.

Hydro has concluded that the environment will not be damaged by the planned activity.