jan mayen island

Northwest coast of Jan Mayen island on a clear day, showing Nord-Jan and Beerenberg to the left and Sør-Jan to the right. Taken from the M/S Prinsendam. By Ian Watson

Oil and gas exploration off Norway’s Jan Mayen Island, due to be opened up to drillers this year, poses “significant environmental challenges” and shouldn’t proceed, the country’s Climate and Pollution Agency said.

Jan Mayen islandThe island’s remote location, about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) from Norway and 600 kilometers from Iceland, would hamper any oil-spill response, the agency said today. Most of the land is protected and can’t support emergency facilities, while the surrounding waters contain vulnerable wildlife, it said.

Norway has completed environmental impact studies for Jan Mayen and plans to open the area to energy exploration in 2013. The Nordic country, western Europe’s biggest oil and gas exporter, is seeking to tap new resources as production from aging North Sea fields declines.

“Recovering possible resources in this area will pose significant environmental challenges,” agency director Ellen Hambro said in a statement. “Maybe these are resources that should be allowed to stay in the ground.”

The agency also advised caution in opening up the southern Barents Sea to drillers this year. Exploration in the area shouldn’t be rushed, it said in a separate statement, urging the government to strengthen its emergency response capability.

State bodies and other stakeholders have until Jan. 16 to comment on the environmental studies for these areas. Oil Minister Ola Borten Moe has said he wants to present his plan to open the prospects in parliament in the spring, and may include them in the next licensing round this year.

-Mikael Holter, Copyright 2013 Bloomberg.

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