(Photo: Øyvind Hagen/Statoil)

Now both the expert panel (”faglig forum”) and the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) have presented their reports. Both show that, with correct development of this area, we can ensure low risk and high value creation.

Statoil sees great opportunities in Lofoten and Vesterålen. These areas contain some of the most promising unopened exploration areas on the Norwegian shelf. Prudent exploitation of these resources will mean substantial revenues for Norway and create significant ripple effects in the region.

Every day, around 5000 of our colleagues go to work for Statoil on one of our offshore installations in Norway. Nothing is more important to us than making sure they return home safe. That is why we set high goals for ourselves in Statoil – zero injuries. We work according to the principle that all accidents can be prevented, which is not the same as guaranteeing that accidents can never happen. No one can do that, not even Statoil. Therefore, it is important to understand the risk our activities entail, and to plan the work in a way that makes it safe for both people and the environment.

As regards the areas outside Lofoten and Vesterålen, this risk is thoroughly described in the report the Ministry of the Environment received from Faglig Forum earlier this year. In this effort, 26 directorates and research institutions have cooperated to provide the politicians with the best possible factual basis, building on 17 years of studies. We in Statoil believe this is a good foundation for further discussions of the opportunities provided by prudent exploitation of the petroleum resources, and how we as an industry can work to ensure that the risk stays as low as possible. This is exactly what we have been doing on the rest of the Norwegian Shelf for the last 40 years.

Environmental risk
It is an absolute precondition for Statoil that we can conduct our activities as a good neighbour to the industries already in the area – both fisheries and tourism. Faglig Forum presented its report on 15 April, and this is considered to be the most important scientific input to the Government’s update of the management plan for Barentshavet/Lofoten, scheduled for later this year. A total of 26 directorates and research institutions have contributed to this work. The Faglig Forum report shows that the risk posed by oil activity is no higher here than on the rest of the shelf, where we currently conduct safe activities. The report also documents that there is no basis for the assertion that an oil spill could do irreparable damage to the fishery resources in the area.

Oil spill response
Oil spill preparedness is extremely good in those areas where the oil industry has activities. Our own preparedness comes in addition to the government’s resources, and we bring with us the best and most up-to-date equipment available anywhere. This is also the case in the northern areas. The oil industry has invested NOK 300 million in new equipment over the last five years.

It is true that activity increases with greater production, but that also holds true for our preparedness. Therefore, according to a Veritas report, the overall environmental risk from oil spills will decline in the Lofoten – Barents Sea area if oil activities are present. The reason for this is that the greatest risk of spills comes from ship traffic, which already takes place in the area.