From: Doug Mellgren, Associated Press
Published April 13, 2005 12:00 AM

Norway's Statoil Shuts Down Oil Drilling Rig After Arctic Oil Spill

OSLO, Norway — Oil exploration drilling from the offshore rig Eirik Raude has been shut down after its third spill into ecologically fragile Arctic waters in just over two months, Statoil ASA announced Wednesday.

The Norwegian parliament has allowed oil companies to search for petroleum in the Barents Sea off northern Norway on the condition that there are no emissions into the Arctic waters. Reactions to the latest spill were strong.

"This is the third time there has been an accidental spill from the rig Eirik Raude," said Haavard Holm, director of the Norwegian Pollution Control Authority, a government agency.

"We are extremely uncertain that the oil companies are capable of drilling in the Barents Sea in the way they promised to," Holm said.

The state-controlled Statoil concern said the rig spilled about 1.75 tons of hydraulic oil into the water on Tuesday, probably from a hydraulic hose.

"We take a very serious view of the incident and are now setting up a working group with participants from the rig operator Ocean Rig," said Tim Dodson, Statoil's senior vice president for exploration on the Norwegian continental shelf.

He said they would not resume drilling until they were certain that there would be no future spills. Drilling began on April 2.

Environmental groups have strongly opposed oil drilling in the Barents Sea, saying the region's rich fish stocks and fragile cold water ecology are especially sensitive to pollution.

The Barents Sea north of Norway and Russia is also believed to have vast oil and natural gas reserves, crucial for Norway to maintain levels of oil production that make the Nordic nation the world's third largest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia and Russia.

The same rig had two leaks in February when it was drilling an exploration well for another Norwegian oil company, Norsk Hydro ASA.

Neither of those February spills were considered environmentally damaging, but both violated the ban on emissions into the ocean, according to the Norwegian Pollution Control Authority. The latest spill did cause pollution, it said.

Statoil, founded by the government in 1972 to oversee Norway's petroleum interests, employs 24,000 people in 29 countries. Its shares were down 0.67 percent to 110.75 kroner ($17.58) in midday trading on the Oslo stock exchange.

Source: Associated Press

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