Norway’s government has extended a 30-year moratorium on oil production on its Arctic shelf until 2013 under pressure from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the environmental organization said on Monday.
“The moratorium for Lofoten and Vesteralen [islands] in Norway’s northern arctic waters is part of an overall management plan for the Barents Sea that is aimed at protecting important areas for fish, sea birds, seals and whales,” the WWF said on its website, adding that the ban would last until 2013.
The moratorium is part of WWF-supported campaigns already under way in Alaska and Russia to protect fisheries and communities.
The wildlife protection campaigns are based on studies showing that oil returns in the long term would be less than returns from well-protected biological resources.
“It is complete madness to trade in a sustainable fishery that could continue to accommodate the interests of both people and nature for generations for a few years of quick and dirty profits from oil,” said Rasmus Hanssen, Secretary General of WWF Norway, according to the website.
The organization has long called for Russia to follow Norway’s suit and protect its biological resources from oil company expansion. In particular, a recent Rosneft-BP deal to jointly extract oil from the Arctic shelf has raised serious concerns among environmentalists. The companies plan to start drilling in 2015.
The Russian government will develop by 2012 a state program for prospecting and extracting mineral resources on Russia’s Arctic shelf, Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev said.
“The Security Council discussed this issue during a recent meeting and instructed the government to finish drafting and adopt by the end of 2011 a long-term state program for prospecting and extracting mineral resources on Russia’s Arctic shelf, Patrushev said in an interview with the Rossiiskaya Gazeta daily published on Friday.
Russia is first in the world in natural gas reserves (24 percent of the total) and 7th in oil reserves (6 percent), but these resources are not renewable.
According to Russia’s Natural Resources Ministry, the country is already exploring 75 percent of its oil and gas deposits on the continent. Many of these deposits register 50-percent depletion and low extraction coefficient (30 percent).
“In these circumstances, Russia’s continental sea shelf becomes a major source of energy supplies, and its exploration assumes an enormous strategic and economic significance,” Patrushev said.
Russian experts estimate recoverable oil and gas resources on the continental shelf at 100 billion tons of reference fuel.
The new program will help focus the efforts of the state and the leading Russian energy companies on efficient exploration of deposits on the continental shelf, Patrushev said.