Friday, 27 January 2012

Norway to open up Barents for exploration after border demarcation

The Norwegian government is to propose exploration of a new sector of the Barents Sea, after a maritime boundary there was finally agreed with Russia.

Oil Minister Ola Borten Moe has said that the new area in the south-east Barents, covering around 44,000km2, could be explored from spring 2013. The government has already started seismic assessments in the region.

The demarcation of the maritime border with Russia was formally ratified last summer. Russia and Norway had been locked in a territorial dispute over the region since 1970, when Norway argued that the boundary should be drawn at the middle point between the nearest land areas belonging to both sides. Russia used claims drawn up by Stalin (unilaterally) that proposed a 'sectoral' approach along certain meridian lines.

A moratorium on oil and gas drilling in the disputed zone was announced in 1975, and the border was demarcated in 2010 based on a compromise which divides the disputed zone into two roughly equal parts.

Exploring the Barents Sea will allow Norway to begin offsetting its dependence on its North Sea oil and gas reserves, which are steadily declining. 181 blocks in the region have been nominated by oil companies in the preliminaries for the latest exploration round, the highest ever number. Nominating companies include ExxonMobil, Shell, ConocoPhillips, Total and Statoil.

The Oil Ministry will assess the nominations and announce which blocks are an offer by the summer, with full exploration work expected to go ahead by next year.

Sources: Upstream, Reuters, BBC

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