NPD wraps up Barents shoot

Seismic trawl: completed in northern Barents Sea

A controversial seismic shoot being carried out for the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) in the northern Barents Sea has now been completed, the agency said.

Around 5600 kilometres of 2D seismic data has been acquired during the one-month survey that was kicked off last month by Oslo-listed contractor Dolphin Geophysical using its vessel Artemis Atlantic, according to the NPD.

Exploration director Sissel Eriksen characterised the survey work - a continuation of earlier seismic shot in the relatively untrammelled northern and south-east Barents - as “very successful” and said it was completed one month ahead of schedule due to favourable weather and few technical issues.

However, the agency has come under fire from environmental watchdog Greenpeace for carrying out the shoot in an area off the Svalbard islands that is both eco-sensitive and the subject of a territorial dispute with Russia and other countries.

It claims the survey is in breach of the government’s pledge not to carry out petroleum activity in the vicinity of the Arctic ice boundary, saying it appears to be a “sneak” attempt to open the area for exploration licensing.

The agency for its part is acting under an official mandate to carry out geological mapping of new areas to increase knowledge of potential hydrocarbon resources in unopened areas on Norway’s continental shelf.

Greenpeace was claiming a moral victory on Thursday over what it saw as the premature termination of the shoot after acquiring only 5600 kilometres of data - short of the targeted 7100 kilometres -  amid reported political pressure from the Liberal and Christian People’s parties.

The leader of the group’s Norway organisation, Truls Gulowsen, said it was “disappointing” the survey had been started in the first place, adding: “The NPD must cease trying to define Norwegian petroleum policy counter to a parliamentary decision.”

The survey failed to cover the northernmost part of the area targeted for seismic acquisition, which he said was “clear evidence that the sneak opening of the area failed to stand up to scrutiny”.

The survey vessel halted operations before the arrival of Greenpeace ship Esperanza to monitor the seismic work, according to the group.

However, an NPD spokesman reportedly denied the seismic survey was halted due to pressure from Greenpeace or politicians.

Explaining the discrepancy over the volume of data acquired, she told Norwegian publication Teknisk Ukeblad the agency typically plans a larger seismic programme than what is finally achieved as “we need flexibility, in this case in relation to weather and ice conditions” that prevented some lines being shot.

“In any case, our budget had been used up,” she added.

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