From: Doug Mellgren, Associated Press
Published July 7, 2005 12:00 AM

Oil Industry Leaders Discuss Arctic Challenges at Meeting in Northern Norway

OSLO, Norway — Oil industry leaders met in Norway's far north Thursday to discuss the prospects and challenges of oil drilling in one of the world's last petroleum frontiers: the Arctic.

The international round table meeting, called the Arctic Energy Agenda, was called by major exporter Norway at a time when the world's thirst for oil has pushed prices to record levels of about US$60 per barrel.

The meeting drew a broad range of energy sector leaders, including European Union Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, acting U.S. Undersecretary of Energy David Garman, Russian political leaders and top executives from Norwegian and international oil companies.

In opening the conference, Norwegian Oil Minister Thorhild Widvey said forecasts suggest that world demand for energy will increase by 60 percent in the next 25 years.

She said most of that has to be covered by fossil fuels, and that the Arctic was seen as one of the most promising new sources.


"To cover the increased need of petroleum we need to look further than the Middle East. Many believe that the world's Arctic regions, including the Barents Sea, contain significant amounts of petroleum resources," Widvey said.

Only Saudi Arabia and Russia export more oil than this Nordic country, with a capacity of about 3 million barrels a day. And as production begins to decline from older fields in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea, the country is looking to the waters off its far north for new discoveries.

The meeting was held in the northern town of Kirkenes, on Norway's border with Russia. Widvey said the city was a symbol of cooperation between Norway and Russia, which share the potentially oil-rich Barents Sea off their northern coasts.

The Norwegian sector alone is estimated to have 8 billion barrels of oil equivalents, which is a measure of the energy content rather than the volume of petroleum.

But the Barents is also a valuable fishing grounds, with, as in much of the Arctic, a fragile, cold water ecology that is highly sensitive to pollution.

"Looking at the challenges in these waters we meet a vulnerable environment, ice conditions, darkness and long distances to markets," said Widvey. "The potential rewards are also large. I believe the Barents Sea could represent the new petroleum province of Europe."

Widvey said she called the meeting to review the challenges, as well as to discuss the technologies and regulations needed to develop Arctic petroleum resources while protecting one of the world's most pristine environments.

The largely closed-door meeting concludes Friday, with a tour of Norwegian oil facilities in the far north.

Source: Associated Press

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