Norway energy chief promotes Arctic drilling

Norway’s energy minister supported efforts to produce oil and natural gas in the Arctic,  but he warned in a Houston speech Monday that a spill would quickly halt activity in the frontier area.

Minister of Petroleum and Energy Ola Borten Moe was the featured speaker at a luncheon hosted by the World Affairs Council of Houston at the Petroleum Club. He said since active drilling began in the Norwegian Continental Shelf 40 years ago, Europe’s northernmost country has built a sizable industry for developing the offshore oil and natural gas reserves.

Moe said the success is driving the industry further north  into the Barents Sea and past the Arctic Circle, a riskier environment that commands higher cost investments and greater safety efforts.

“There will not be a second chance in the Arctic if something goes wrong,” he said.

The Arctic holds about 22 percent of the world’s undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and natural gas, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Growing production on the Norwegian Continental Shelf will require increased recovery from existing fields and opening of new acreage, he said.

Moe chided detractors of fossil fuels, saying traditional forms of energy are key to keeping economies healthy and improving qualities of life in developing countries. He pointed to the the impact shale gas has had on energy markets and said oil sands have the power to make similar impacts on crude.

“Fossil fuels will be used for generations to come,” Moe said. “It’s not a question of if we will use it. It’s a question of how we can produce it as efficiently and cleanly as possible.”