Lofoten archipelago is the hot spot of the North

Feb 03, 2009 01:00 AM

The fight for opening Lofoten in northern Norway for petroleum activity is intensifying.
"It is absurd that the danger of minimal losses for the fishing industry are more important than the several billion euro of possible incomes from oil and gas production in Lofoten," says Norwegian economist Roegnvaldur Hannisson.

The number of new oil and gas field discoveries on the Norwegian continental shelf is decreasing rapidly. At the same time the oil industry is dependent on new discoveries in order to keep up productivity.
The areas outside the Lofoten archipelago in northern Norway are some of the oil industry's most attractive areas for exploration drillings. However, so far, this area has been protected from such activity because of its vulnerability and importance for the fishing stocks.

The Norwegian economics professor Roegnvaldur Hannisson says that the entire debate on with-holding the continental shelf outside Lofoten from all future petroleum activity is weird. Nobody compares the multi-billion euro potential of petroleum activity in these areas with the minimal risk of losses for the fish industry, he argues.
If a serious accident is to happen in the middle of the cod breeding season, it would still only harm a maximum of 21.7 % of the cod stocks in Lofoten. The researcher estimates the total losses for the fish industry of a severe accident to a maximum of EUR 300 mm, while a moderate estimate of the potential incomes of petroleum industry outside Lofoten has been said to be almost EUR 50 bn, Hannisson says.

Norwegian environmental organization Bellona characterizes Hannisson's opinions as totally disrespectful. It is both immoral and disrespectful towards the entire fish industry to only use economy as an argument in this discussion. The report on which Hannisson bases his estimates is not even credible, says Elisabeth Saether in Bellona.
At the same time Norwegian petroleum companies, with StatoilHydro in the front, are pushing for Norwegian authorities to decide whether they will open Lofoten for exploration or not.

"Norwegian politicians will have to decide whether they will utilize the entire resource potential of the Norwegian continental shelf or not," chief executive of StatoilHydro Helge Lund said on a seminar recently.
For StatoilHydro it is important to outline which possibilities there are for Norwegian petroleum industry, and Lund has long said that he believes the possibilities of finding large undiscovered oil or gas fields to be most promising in waters outside Lofoten. StatoilHydro will need new areas of exploration to be opened soon if it is to keep up the same production rate as today in the coming decade.

On Norwegian hands
Head of the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO) Finn Bergesen is critical to the lack of action in the north.
He calls the petroleum development in northern Norway for Norway's "fourth industrial age in the nation's modern history".

What is special about this situation is that for the first time the control of the development is on Norwegian hands. That was not the case when Norsk Hydro was established as Norway's first large industrial company in 1910, or when the country was rebuilt after the Second World War or when Norway entered the oil industry in 1970. Then, foreign capital and foreign know-how was decisive for the implementation of the projects.
"All premises are present this time. We have the competence, we have the capital and we have the technology. For the first time it is all on Norwegian hands," Mr Bergesen underlines.

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