As we open the door to the next chapter of the Norwegian oil adventure, we do so with a great sense of responsibility. Taking the quest for oil and gas further north is not a task we take lightly. 

It is a responsibility we shoulder on behalf of Norway, and one we have borne for 40 years. Now, after years of planning and careful preparation, we are moving into the south east Barents Sea. We are doing it in consultation with the foremost professional expertise in the Norwegian offshore industry; with scientists, environmental experts and unions, and with permission from Norwegian authorities. We are doing it with decades of experience and with the best available technology and emergency preparedness. And we are doing it in the certainty that any resources we find, will benefit not only the citizens of Norway, but also people around the world. Here we explain how we will explore, responsibly—and why we believe it is our responsibility to do so.

Photo: with kind permission of Songa Offshore

Where will we explore?

The Gulf Stream has made it possible for Norway to develop significant offshore oil activities in ice-free waters. Now, as we explore the south east Barents Sea, we are operating in winds, waves and currents similar to the North Sea. These waters have been ice-free for the last 50 years in summertime, and there have been fewer than 10 days of ice in the last 14 winters.

Frequently asked questions

We know that there are many eyes on us as we prepare for the Barents Sea, and many claims have been made about our operations. Here we seek to provide concrete, balanced answers based on environmental risk analyses conducted by independent third parties and researchers. 

Our partners

Statoil is the operator of all blocks to be explored, but we also cooperate closely with our partner companies in the licences, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, DEA, ENI, Lundin, OMV and Petoro. 

Why it’s safe to explore the Barents Sea

  • Technically, this operation is no different from the rest of the Norwegian continental shelf, where we have been carrying out exploration drilling for nearly 50 years. 130 wells have already been drilled in the Barents Sea, and the next ones will be no more difficult than those already drilled.
  • We will explore in ice-free waters during the summer months, with a mobile rig that floats like a ship. The rig is self-propelled and purpose-built for Arctic conditions—and will leave the location afterwards. The timing of the operation has been carefully chosen to minimise negative effects on wildlife. 
  • The areas we will explore have been ice-free in summer for the past 50 years, and there have been fewer than 10 days with ice in winter for the past 14 years.
  •  We will constantly monitor any potential drift ice in the area using satellites and aircraft.
  • We will remove the rig from the drilling site if sea ice comes closer than 50 km, in accordance with Norwegian authority requirements.
  • The drilling operation is monitored by Automatic Drilling Control systems which stop the drilling and close the blowout preventer if any abnormalities arise. The personnel on board the rig also monitor all operations continuously.  
  • The rig crew undergo realistic simulator training before every drilling operation, training on each specific well before it is drilled. 
  • If the unthinkable were to happen and a spillage were to occur, booms would be deployed at once to restrict the spreading and minimise damage to any sea birds that might be in the area. Models show that there would be some risk to sea birds if booms were not deployed, but at a low level. Several measures have therefore been initiated to further reduce the potential for damage, including adjusting the timeframe for the operation, changing the order in which the wells will be drilled, and monitoring seabirds from ships. 
  • Biodegradable chemicals are used as far as possible in modern drilling operations, which leave no traces in the environment. These chemicals are familiar to us from our everyday lives, and are used in such everyday products as cat litter, plant fertilisers and foodstuffs. Any harmful chemicals are kept in a closed system with no emissions to the sea. 
  • Emergency preparedness vessels and helicopters will be on standby in the immediate vicinity of the rig, 24/7.

In brief

In the summer of 2017, Statoil will explore five licences allocated by the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy. Statoil was granted permission to carry out drilling by the Norwegian Environment Agency and the Petroleum Safety Authority after conducting a thorough risk analysis and public consultation. 

Exploration drilling will take place in the period from May to September, and will be carried out by “Songa Enabler,” a floating, self-propelled rig built in 2016 which is purpose-built for cold climates. The rig is approved and classed by DNVGL for such conditions.

When drilling is complete, the wells will be plugged and sealed with concrete (irrespective of whether a find has been made) and the rig will leave the area for operations elsewhere.

Exploration is being carried out to find out whether oil or gas deposits are to be found beneath the sea bed.

What are the conditions actually like in the Barents Sea?

How much ice is there where we plan to drill? Where is the ice edge?
And what happens if an iceberg appears? We asked our expert on Arctic ice and meteorology, Kenneth Johannessen Eik , to explain.  

Ice-free 0

The areas we will explore have been ice-free for 50 consecutive summers

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The distance from the marginal ice zone to our exploration wells


Marginal ice zone: > 10% sea ice, as monitored by the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, 1984—2014. 

Safe operations with purpose-built rig

Many people are concerned about the possibility of an oil spillage. We believe that the most important thing for the environment is to prevent an accident from happening at all. That’s why we will be using the latest and most advanced rig in Songa Offshore’s fleet, the “Songa Enabler,” when exploration begins this summer.

The rig is purpose-built and winterised to withstand cold conditions, and is equipped with the most advanced solutions to prevent emissions and damage to the environment. It can disconnect and withdraw from the drilling site in a matter of minutes if the situation requires it. 

with kind permission of ALP Maritime Services

The rig has been designed to withstand extreme cold, with heated decks, walkways and superstructure.


If rainwater from the deck contains more than 5 ppm of oil, it is automatically purified on board. 

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If waste water is contaminated, up to 750 tonnes can be collected on board for purification ashore. 

“Songa Enabler” is the newest in a series of four mobile rigs built by Songa Offshore in cooperation with Statoil. This rig floats like a ship, moves under its own power and maintains its position dynamically in the sea using thrusters instead of anchors. In an emergency, this means that the rig can secure the well, disconnect itself and leave the area in a matter of minutes. It is winterised to withstand extreme cold, and is equipped with the most modern safety and purification systems available today.

Read more about how we prevent environmental damage and emissions using the latest exploration rigs on the Norwegian Continental Shelf. 

Comprehensive preparedness

Wherever we operate, we always have emergency preparedness on standby. But since parts of our Barents exploration programme will be taking place quite far from shore, we will be taking additional measures to upgrade our emergency preparedness for the duration of the exploration campaign. This involves the use of standby vessels with towing capacity, supply vessels, man overboard (MOB) rescue boats, a hospital, a NOFO oil recovery system, a search and rescue (SAR) helicopter and SAR camera, as well as a helipad on the rig. 

A cooperation agreement has been entered with Eni for additional ad hoc emergency preparedness, while all operators on the Norwegian continental shelf are contractually committed through NOROG to assist each other with available capacity should an emergency arise. This means that other rigs operating in the Barents Sea at the same time as Statoil could be mobilised if necessary.

The following resources will be used during the exploration campaign:

Havila Troll

Standby vessel Havila Troll

Havila Troll will accompany the rig through the entire exploration campaign equipped with the following facilities:

  • A NOFO oil recovery system permanently on board and a daughter vessel that can tow the oil boom for the first 12 hours
  • Hospital, sick bay, telemedicinal equipment
  • A large MOB boat and additional MOB boats
  • A towing capacity of 110 tonnes, water cannon and cameras for day and night surveillance
  • 350 m2 cargo deck
  • Helipad
Trom Arcturus

Supply vessel Troms Arcturus

It is planned to use a supply vessel to supply “Songa Enabler” at all the wells. Troms Arcturus has been selected as a supply vessel for the entire exploration campaign as it has NOFO/standby class.

At Korpfjell, two vessels must be in attendance due to long distances and oil spill preparedness requirements. 

SAR Helicopter

Helicopter service

There will be an SAR helicopter located in Hammerfest, which will be stationed in Vardø during the operation at Korpfjell. The crew will be flown to Korpfjell from Hammerfest and Kirkenes with refuelling in Vardø.

Benefits for the nation—and the world

Why risk exploring the Barents Sea when there are concerns about the environment? We understand there are many eyes on us as we enter this region, and we take our responsibility extremely seriously. But it’s a question not only of risk, but also of opportunity.

There is considerable interest in this exploration since many geologists believe that most of the remaining undiscovered resources on the Norwegian continental shelf may be right here in the Barents Sea—and could be of major benefit to future generations of Norwegians, as well as a valuable source of energy for the world. 

Balancing these apparently conflicting concerns is something we are staking our reputation on. However, with the right technology, and the right commitment, we believe this is a task which can, and should, be resolved.