The largest oil and gas companies in Norway intend to resume exploration and oil production in the Arctic zones of the Barents Sea. They faced pressure from across Europe against the backdrop of reduced supplies of hydrocarbons from Russia and demands to increase their own supplies. Bloomberg writes about this with reference to representatives of Norwegian energy companies.
About 60% of all hydrocarbon reserves in Norway are located in the north of the Barents Sea, but local companies are in no hurry to develop them, as it is believed that these are hard-to-recover reserves and companies will have to fork out for the creation of related infrastructure. Moreover, the weather conditions in this area are much harsher and require complex technical solutions and, accordingly, investments, so companies have not yet taken up the development of these fields. Given the trend towards green energy, Norwegian companies thought that these deposits would remain undeveloped, but the Russian invasion has changed the status quo, and now the rest of Europe needs these reserves.
“The status quo is not an option. Even if we want to maintain production, we must explore more, we must find more,” says Var Energi ASA CEO Torger Rod, whose company is active in the Barents Sea.
At the moment, Norwegian companies are developing two fields in the Barents Sea - these are Goliath and Snovit, they are located in the southern part of the sea, which greatly simplifies production in this region, since the warm waters of the Gulf Stream reach these edges and prevent water from freezing. However, the main untapped reserves are located just to the north - where companies have poorly developed infrastructure and almost no settlements.
But Norway, apparently, is determined to correct this situation. Norwegian Energy Minister Terje Aasland urged national oil and gas companies not to hold back and make every effort to develop new fields, moreover, he called this necessity the "social responsibility" of companies. The agency notes that such an approach may please European countries, but there is no unity on this issue within Norway itself - back in 2020, local “greens” filed a lawsuit to ban drilling of new fields. Activists insist that drilling new wells during the climate crisis violates basic human rights. The Norwegian court did not take the side of the activists, but they continue proceedings in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
Meanwhile, companies continue to develop their plans for the development of new fields, although they are waiting for a court decision. Var Energi is ramping up its investments and has already discovered two new deposits in a relatively easy-to-develop area of the Barents Sea. Equinor, Norway's largest oil and gas company, is also revising its plans to develop fields in favor of their significant build-up in northern latitudes. The company intends to present a new large-scale development plan in 2026. However, according to company vice president Grete Birgit Haaland, Equinor will focus on the development of the Wisting field.
Wisting is considered one of the largest fields in the region, its reserves are estimated at 500 million barrels of oil equivalent, but the key difficulty in developing the field is the complete lack of infrastructure. The nearest settlement is 310 kilometers away, and the nearest working field is 160 kilometers away, and it also has not yet reached its full capacity.
Nevertheless, representatives of companies are also skeptical about the development of new deposits. They note that such massive investments in infrastructure make mining risky - it may not pay off due to high costs. However, the Norwegian government, according to the agency, is signaling to companies that it is ready to help reduce costs in order to develop the northern regions and increase production. In addition, the projected reserves of oil and gas in these waters will help recoup the costs.