In a move which will concern many of those who had hoped that the country was embarking on the path to transitioning away from its historic dependence on fossil fuels, Norway is to embark on an extensive exploration and production (E&P) push for oil and gas.
Norway’s government said it has given approval for oil companies to develop 19 oil and gas fields with investments exceeding 200 billion Norwegian crowns ($18.51 billion), part of the country’s strategy to extend production for decades to come.
Among the field developments receiving final approval on Wednesday were nine operated by Aker BP, three by Equinor and several by Wintershall Dea and OMV.
“These are projects that will contribute to a continued high and stable output from Norway’s continental shelf as well as employment and value creation,” Minister of Petroleum and Energy Terje Aasland told a news conference.
The move comes in the same week that Norway is to take its first steps towards nuclear power supplying the national grid via a new partnership with Finland’s TVO Nuclear Services (TVONS). The partnership aims to develop small modular reactors (SMRs) in the country.
Norway’s petroleum production push is opposed by environmentalists and others concerned that carbon emissions from the burning of oil and gas contributes to climate change.
However, the Norwegian government insists that Norway’s oil and gas resources are essential to Europe’s energy security and will be needed for decades to come.
Indeed, last year Norway overtook Russia as Europe’s biggest gas supplier after Moscow cut supplies amid the war in Ukraine.
The country is also considering allowing deep-sea mining in its territorial waters.
The areas to be opened are in the Greenland Sea, the Norwegian Sea and the Barents Sea and cover an area of some 280,000 square kilometres (108,000 square miles). Licenses for smaller areas would be offered to exploration companies over time.
The seabed in Norway’s proposed mining area is rich in polymetallic nodules, containing high concentrations of copper, nickel, cobalt and other sought-after metals. Norway argues that these materials, commonly used in batteries and electric vehicles, are critical to a successful energy transition.
The country claims to be taking a leading role in the global race to mine the ocean floor for metals that are in high demand.