From: Associated Press
Published December 5, 2006 12:00 AM

Industry Group Says Norway Needs to Step Up Offshore Exploration

OSLO, Norway — Norway needs to open up new offshore oil exploration areas and step up the search in existing zones if it is to remain a key oil exporter, a national oil industry association report said Monday.

"We have no time to lose," it said. "Exploration activity must be intensified and its results must be improved."

The Nordic nation's offshore fields make it the world's third largest oil exporter, after Saudi Arabia and Russia, as well as a major natural gas supplier.

However, the association -- known by its Norwegian acronym OLF -- said that after more than three decades as an oil producer, the country needs new big finds to keep up the flow. New oilfields need to be located fast because there is often at least a 10-year lag between finding one and developing it, the report said.

According to the state Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, oil production has been declining by about 4 percent a year since a peak average of 3.1 million barrels per day in 2000. This year, production is expected to average about 2.4 million barrels per day.

The government has been urging oil companies to search for new, small oil reservoirs near existing fields in the North Sea, as well as push the search for new supplies north into Arctic waters.

However, environmental concerns led Oslo to restrict exploration in some promising northern areas until 2010, pending further impact studies. Environmentalists and fishermen strongly oppose oil exploitation in those areas because they are rich in fish stocks and have a fragile, cold weather ecology that is especially vulnerable to oil spills.

The OLF represents 31 oil companies and 52 oil services companies in Norway.

Source: Associated Press

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