transocean spitsbergen rig greenpeace

Greenpeace Cheers as Statoil Comes Up Dry in the Northern Barents

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June 20, 2014

Transocean Spitsbergen Image: Greenpeace

By Mikael Holter

June 20 (Bloomberg) — Statoil ASA failed to find oil in the northernmost site ever drilled off Norway’s Arctic tip.

The Apollo well, which had been the focus of a standoff with Greenpeace activists that occupied its rig last month, was “dry,” the Stavanger-based Norwegian Petroleum Directorate said in a statement today.

“We’re thrilled that there were no accidents and we’re thrilled that they didn’t find anything,” said Truls Gulowsen, program manager for Greenpeace Norway, by phone today. “If they had listened to us, they would have avoided wasting hundreds of millions of kroner on a meaningless exploration well.”

The well was delayed last month when 15 Greenpeace members boarded the Transocean Ltd.-operated rig as it was headed to drill in the Barents Sea. The activists were eventually removed by Norwegian police. Greenpeace and other environmental groups say the drilling campaign is too close to the Bear Island reserve and the edge of the polar ice cap, where an oil spill could hurt vulnerable ecosystems.

Representatives at Statoil, Norway’s largest oil and gas producer, didn’t immediately reply to a call seeking a comment.

‘Farther North’

The Transocean Spitsbergen rig is now heading even farther north in the same license to drill the Atlantis well, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) from the mainland, the NPD said.

Norway, western Europe’s biggest oil and gas producer is seeking to unlock resources in the Arctic to maintain output after a 20 percent decline over the past decade as North Sea fields are depleted. In addition to Apollo and Atlantis, Statoil is planning a third well this year in the Hoop area. Oil was discovered in the area in 2013 by Austria’s OMV AG.

Norway’s Climate and Environment Ministry last month rejected a complaint by Greenpeace to stop the drilling. The group, which is also campaigning against Exxon Mobil Corp. and OAO Rosneft’s plans to drill in the Kara Sea in Russia’s Arctic, has filed complaints against Statoil’s next two wells in the Hoop area, Gulowsen said.

“We’ll continue to elevate those issues and contribute however we can to them not being realized,” he said. “We can never rule out direct action.”

Copyright 2014 Bloomberg.

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