Norway is moving full steam ahead on energy exploration in the Arctic by offering new drilling leases in the area for the first time in more than two decades. National Geographic reports that lower oil prices haven’t discouraged Norway’s hopes of capitalizing on the lease sales:
Norway’s ministry of petroleum and energy cited the industry’s economic woes as a reason for the leases. “New and attractive exploration acreage is important to the long-term value creation from the Norwegian shelf,” it said in a statement. “This is particularly important with the current challenging situation in the industry.”
Statoil, one of 43 companies being invited to apply for the leases, welcomed the decision. “Access to new quality acreage is essential to ensure continued exploration activity,” said Irene Rummelhoff, senior vice president for Norwegian continental shelf exploration.
The Norwegian government said that the new plan, which would award production licenses beginning in 2016, includes time restrictions on drilling to safeguard “important environmental assets” along the ice edge. Sea ice is a critical part of the habitat for Arctic wildlife including polar bears, harp seals, and marine birds.