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16th Jun 2019

EU should look north for energy, Norwegian minister says

  • Norway has jurisdiction over an area six times as big as its mainland in the Arctic Sea (Photo: thesetides.com)

Increased extraction of oil and natural gas from the Barents Sea may provide Europe with its much needed energy, the Norwegian foreign minister Jonas Gahr Store has said.

Ahead of a meeting with his Swedish counterpart in Stockholm, the Norwegian minister in a letter published in Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet on Monday (24 April), sketched a European energy scenario focusing on the ice-packed northern parts of our planet.

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"We know that the traditional conception of the world, classically defined with Europe in the middle, and America and Asia on the outer wings is only one way of looking at the map.

"If we instead place the Nordic areas in the centre, the perspective changes dramatically. The Arctic Ocean is then a mutual sea between Europe, Russia and North America," he said.

The Barents Sea is a part of the Arctic Ocean and spans the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, and Finland and North-western Russia, including the counties of Murmansk and Archangel as well as the Republic of Karelia.

Geologists say there is oil to the value of €250 billion in the Norwegian parts of the Arctic Sea, an area of 27.7 million square kilometres.

Oslo believes that the prospect of further oil and gas finding in the Arctic Sea are better-than-good, and has initiated deeper cooperation with neighbours Sweden, Finland and Russia to decide upon the drilling rights and repartition of licences for foreign countries' energy companies.

Companies resumed drilling in the Norwegian sector of the Barents Sea in 2005 for the first time since 2001, after the previous Norwegian government ended a moratorium on drilling activity in the Arctic against protests by environmental groups.

The number of applicants for licences was immediate, reflecting increased industry interest in the Barents Sea, despite the region's harsh Arctic climate.

According to the Norwegian foreign minister, the North Sea, situated between Scandinavia, the British Islands, Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands, could in the future be connected to the Barents Sea with a pipeline, to supply Europe with gas from both the Russian and Norwegian parts of the Barents region.

Oil and gas make up for 50 percent of Norway's exports, with only Saudi Arabia and Russia exporting more oil than the Scandinavian state.

Russia has over the last few years also stepped up drilling for gas and oil on its waters in the area, while American oil giants have bought the right to drill on parts of the Norwegian waters.

Moscow has said it wants to build a gas pipeline from the Barents Sea to the Baltic Sea, where it can be connected to another planned southbound pipeline to supply Germany with natural gas.

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