Statoil steps up Arctic energy exploration

Norway's Statoil on Tuesday said it would vastly expand its prospecting efforts in the Arctic, thought to hold one of the world's largest untouched deposits of oil and natural gas.

Statoil steps up Arctic energy exploration
Drilling at the Skrugard field in th Barents Sea (Photo: Harald Pettersen/Scanpix).

Statoil will drill nine wells in the Norwegian Barents Sea between December and the summer of 2013, the company said in a statement.

"This is a less challenging area, as the Norwegian Barents is one of the only Arctic areas with a year-round ice-free zone," said Statoil Exploration executive vice president Tim Dodson.

The campaign in the summer of 2013 will include the drilling of two or three wells in the Hoop frontier exploration area far north in the Barents sea.

"These will be the northernmost wells ever drilled in Norway," the company said.

Major energy companies have increased their efforts to explore the frigid Arctic waters after between 400 and 600 million barreles equivalent were discovered by Statoil in the Skrugard and Havis wells.

"After our Skrugard and Havis discoveries we still see attractive opportunities here," Dodson said.

But the new energy frontier has raised stiff resistance from environmentalists.

In recent days, Greenpeace activists have carried out brazen actions against the Arctic operations of Russian energy giant Gazprom.

Six Greenpeace International activists occupied Gazprom's rig in the south-eastern section of the Barents Sea on Friday for 15 hours before being chased out, pelted by workers with chunks of metal and hosed with ice water.

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NGOs take Norway to European Court over Arctic oil exploration

Two NGOs and six young climate activists have decided to take Norway to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to demand the cancellation of oil permits in the Arctic, Greenpeace announced on Tuesday.

NGOs take Norway to European Court over Arctic oil exploration
Northern Norway. Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash.

It’s the latest turn in a legal tussle between environmental organisations Greenpeace and Young Friends of the Earth Norway on one side and the Norwegian state on the other.

The organisations are demanding the government cancel 10 oil exploration licenses in the Barents Sea awarded in 2016, arguing it was unconstitutional.

Referring to the Paris Agreement, which seeks to limit global warming to less than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the organisations claim that the oil licenses violated article 112 of Norway’s constitution, guaranteeing everyone the right to a healthy environment.”

The six activists, alongside Greenpeace Nordic and Young Friends of the Earth Norway, hope that the European Court of Human Rights will hear their case and find that Norway’s oil expansion is in breach of human rights,” Greenpeace said in a statement.

In December, Norway’s Supreme Court rejected the claim brought by the organisations, their third successive legal defeat.

READ MORE: Norway sees oil in its future despite IEA’s warnings¬†

While most of the judges on the court agreed that article 112 could be invoked if the state failed to meet its climate and environmental obligations– they did not think it was applicable in this case.

The court also held that the granting of oil permits was not contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights, in part because they did not represent “a real and immediate risk” to life and physical integrity.

“The young activists and the environmental organisations argue that this judgment was flawed, as it discounted the significance of their environmental constitutional rights and did not take into account an accurate assessment of the consequences of climate change for the coming generations,” Greenpeace said.

On Friday, the Norwegian government unveiled a white paper on the country’s energy future, which still includes oil exploration despite a warning from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The IEA recently warned that all future fossil fuel projects must be scrapped if the world is to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The Norwegian case is an example of a global trend in which climate activists are increasingly turning to courts to pursue their agenda.