Posts Tagged ‘reuters’

Melting Arctic sea ice drives walruses onto land

August 25, 2011

By Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent
WASHINGTON | Wed Aug 17, 2011 4:52pm EDT
(Reuters) – Original article here

Photo Credit: Liz Labunski/USFWS

Fast-melting Arctic sea ice appears to be pushing walruses to haul themselves out onto land, and many are moving around the area where oil leases have been sold, the U.S. Geological Survey reports.

Walruses are accomplished divers and frequently plunge hundreds of feet (meters) to the bottom of the continental shelf to feed. But they use sea ice as platforms to give birth, nurse their young and elude predators, and when sea ice is scarce or non-existent, as it has been this summer, they come up on land.

Last September, the loss of sea ice caused an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 walruses to venture onto land, and as sea ice melts reached a record last month, U.S. government scientists are working with Alaskan villagers to put radio transmitters on some of the hauled-out walruses to track their movements around the Chukchi Sea.

“The ice is very widely dispersed and there is little of it left over the continental shelf,” researcher Chad Jay of the U.S. Geological Survey said in a statement on Wednesday. “Based on our tracking data, the walruses appear to be spreading out and spending quite a bit of time looking for sea ice.”

The loss of sea ice puts Pacific walruses at risk, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but other, higher-priority species will get attention first. In February, the wildlife service listed Pacific walruses as candidates for protection, though not protection itself.

Walruses are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which means these animals cannot be harvested, imported, exported or be part of interstate commerce.

Polar bears, which also use sea ice in the Chukchi Sea as platforms for hunting, have been designated as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act because of declining sea ice in the Arctic.

Compared to last year’s massive haul-out, there are few walruses on land, and there is no solid count, Jay said.

“There is a lot less ice than there used to be on the continental shelf this time of year,” he said. “So we might be headed into a new normal.”

Transmissions from the radio-tagged walruses offer a good picture of where these creatures are in the Chukchi Sea in a U.S. Geological Survey graphic updated approximately weekly.

SHRINKING ARCTIC SEA ICE

Available online here , the graphic shows where the walruses were when they were first tagged (shown as red Xs) and how they moved around the water (shown as yellow dots).

The graphic also shows changes in sea ice cover in the far north, indicating nearly ice-free conditions in areas where the walruses are moving. Many are within the boundaries of an oil lease sale area that stretches along the northwestern Alaska coast and far into the Chukchi Sea.

Royal Dutch Shell, ConocoPhillips and Statoil hold leases in the Chukchi Sea, though no drilling has started.

Last month saw Arctic sea ice drop to its lowest extent — meaning that it covered the smallest area — for any July since satellite records began in 1979, according to the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center. Typically, Arctic sea ice hits its lowest extent for the year in September.

This record-low ice extent for July is lower than July ice extent in 2007, when ice extent shrank in September to its smallest area in the satellite record.

(Editing by Sandra Maler)

UPDATE 3-Big Statoil Arctic find revives Norway’s oil future (Reuters)

April 1, 2011

April 1st. 2011, Reuters, Original article here

* Skrugard holds 150-250 mln boe recoverable reserves

* Potential upside for total 500 mln boe

* Most significant off Norway in last decade

* Nearby prospect could also have big potential

* Statoil shares to three-and-a-half-year high

(Adds environmental concern, updates shares)

By Gwladys Fouche and Henrik Stoelen

OSLO, April 1 (Reuters) – Norway’s Statoil (STL.OL) has made a big oil find in the Arctic North, the firm said on Friday, breathing new life into Norway’s declining oil prospects and lifting the company’s shares to a 3.5-year high.

The company said the 150-250 million barrels of oil equivalent Skrugard discovery in the Barents Sea could potentially hold up to 500 million barrels and is the most significant off Norway in the last decade. It said a nearby prospect also looked promising. “This is fantastic, a breakthrough for us in this section of the Barents Sea,” Gro Gunleiksrud Haatvedt, Statoil’s head of exploration off Norway, told Reuters.

“This find will lead to a new boom in exploration in the area,” said Magnus Smistad, an analyst at Fondsfinans. “This is an exciting area and the potential could be even bigger.”

Statoil shares were up 2.2 percent to 156.7 crowns at 1612 GMT while shares in Italy’s Eni (ENI.MI), which has a 30 percent stake in the licence, were up 1.85 percent to 17.65 euros.

Norway is the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter and the second-largest for gas but its oil output has been declining since 2001 and oil discoveries have become ever smaller.

In January Norwegian authorities slashed their estimates for offshore undiscovered oil and gas resources by 21 percent to 16.4 billion barrels of oil equivalent, making the country less attractive to oil majors — until today. [ID:nLDE70B1MD]

“This discovery is the missing element needed to develop the Barents Sea into an oil province over the long-term,” Norwegian Minister of Petroleum and Energy Ola Borten Moe said in a statement.

Finding oil in the Barents Sea has been tough. More than 80 exploration wells have been drilled there since 1980 but only two discoveries have been made — Statoil’s Snoehvit gas field and Eni’s Goliat oilfield.

Discovered in 2000, Goliat was the biggest oil find made in the Norwegian Barents Sea until now, with an estimated 240 million barrels in oil equivalent.

The find could lead to renewed concern about the impact of oil activity in a remote part of the Arctic, following the BP (BP.L) oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Before drilling on Skrugard began last year, the Norwegian Polar Institute expressed worries about the potential impact of oil leaks that could get trapped in the Arctic sea ice, which extends to within some 150 kilometres (93 miles) north of Skrugard.

Haatvedt said Statoil would drill another well at Skrugard next year, which is about two-third oil and one-third gas, as well as another well at a nearby prospect.

“The other prospect has big potential, with a strong upside,” the executive said, declining to offer more details. The third partner in the license is Norwegian state-owned firm Petoro, which holds a 20 percent stake.

“It takes between 5 to 10 years from making a discovery to production, so we are planning for the future now … “We want to start production as soon as possible,” Statoil said, adding that it saw possibilities for a stand-alone production installation for Skrugard.

(Editing by Richard Mably and Jason Neely)

Arctic oil drill splits Norway’s government

March 14, 2011

Euractiv.com 14 March 2011 -original article here

Norway’s Labour-led coalition government is preparing for crisis talks after one of its parties, the Socialist Left (SV), pledged to hold out against oil drilling in the pristine Lofoten region.

The oil industry views the untapped waters around the Lofoten and Vesteraalen islands as one of the best remaining prospects off Norway, the world’s fifth biggest oil exporter, whose output has fallen by a third in the past decade. But Norway’s green and socialist movements oppose oil and gas activities in the region, which is home to Europe’s largest cod stock and unique cold water reefs.

A decision on whether to order an impact assessment study for drilling in Lofoten – the most divisive issue in Norwegian politics – is due within weeks. On March 9, Labour MPs asked Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg to negotiate a way out of the stalemate with SV, possibly by changing the study’s name or tweaking its scope. But the Socialists rejected this. “We can’t accept any study that leads to opening the region for oil and gas activities,” SV’s energy spokesman Snorre Valen told Reuters. “We simply won’t compromise on this.”

Oil industry pressure
The ruling coalition has survived for six years, partly by delaying decisions on the Lofotens. But pressure from the oil industry, trades unions and some local people is forcing Labour to move on the issue. The SV environment minister Erik Solheim played down the chances of a government collapse to the Aftenposten newspaper.

“The government has for the past six years shown a phenomenal ability to survive. We have like Lazarus risen from the dead, and several times at that,” he was reported saying. Norway’s oil row comes as a report by the US National Academy of Sciences warns of a new struggle for oil and gas resources in the Arctic by 2030. Melting ice cover due to climate change will upset the Arctic power balance and intensify unresolved disputes among countries with Arctic borders. These include Norway, the US, Canada, Denmark, Russia, Iceland, Sweden and Finland.

“The geopolitical situation in the Arctic region has become complex and nuanced, despite the area being essentially ignored since the end of the Cold War,” the study says. It predicts a low chance of conflict but cautions that that “co-operation in the Arctic should not be considered a given even among close allies.”

(EurActiv with Reuters.)

Background

The resource-rich Arctic is becoming increasingly contentious as climate change endangers many species of the region’s flora and fauna but also makes the region more navigable. Up to 25% of the planet’s undiscovered oil and gas could be located there, according to the US Geological Survey.

No country owns the North Pole or the region of the Arctic surrounding it. The surrounding Arctic states of the USA, Canada, Russia, Norway and Denmark (Greenland) have a 200 nautical mile economic zone around their coasts.

In August 2007, a Russian icebreaker reached the North Pole and a Russian mini-submarine planted a titanium Russian flag on the seabed there. The move was widely interpreted as a bellicose claim by Russia to the North Pole seabed and its resources.

Norway covers between 10 and 18% of EU oil demand and about 15% of its natural gas. The country, a member of the European Economic Area since 1994, is the world’s third largest exporter of oil and gas after Saudi Arabia and Russia.

By 2015-2020, natural gas deliveries from Norway to the EU are expected to grow from 85 billion cubic metres to 120 bcm, covering 7-9% of the EU’s entire gas consumption by 2020.