Norway and fossil gas

From Global Energy Monitor

Norway has produced fossil gas since 1971.[1] In 2017, Norway produced the seventh largest amount of natural gas (123.9 billion cubic meters) in the world.[2] In 2020 it was the world's third-largest (114 billion cubic meters) exporter of natural gas.[3] Oil and gas combined represent almost half of the total value of Norwegian exports.[4] About 95% of Norwegian gas is transported via pipelines to other European countries.[3]

115 fields on the Norwegian shelf have produced oil and gas since the 1970s. As of 2020, 90 fields were producing fossil fuels from the North Sea, the Norwegian Sea and Barents Sea. The country's largest field, in terms of both remaining reserves and total production, is the Troll oil and gas field which is located in the North Sea.[5][1]


In May of 1963, the Norwegian Government established that any natural resources on the continental shelf belong to the Norwegian state. Norway reached an agreement with Denmark and the UK in 1965 drawing the boundaries of the shelf. That same year, Norway awarded 22 production licenses granting companies the exclusive right to explore, drill and extract oil and gas in the areas to which they applied. Phillips Petroleum informed the Norwegian government of a commercially viable field it hoped to exploit in 1969, and production from that field began in 1971. From 1971-1993, all oil and gas from Norway was produced in the North Sea. In 1993, production began in the Norwegian Sea, and in 2007 from the Barents Sea.[6]

According to the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD), foreign companies "dominated exploration" in the "early days." However, the establishment of the State’s Direct Financial Interest (SDFI) in 1985 made it so the Norwegian state owns holdings in a number of oil and gas fields, pipelines and onshore facilities. NDP states that "petroleum activities have played a key role in the development of today’s welfare state in Norway." [6]


At the end of 2020, 37 exploration and production companies were active in the oil and gas extraction business in Norway.[7] That year, Equinor Energy was operator of 59 fields, more than any other company. Aker BP, Petoro, Vår Energi, Wintershall Dea Norge, Lundin Energy Norway, Neptune Energy Norge, DNO Norge, Total E&P Norge, Spirit Energy Norway, ConocoPhillips Skandinavia and OMV (Norge) also hold significant numbers of licenses for fossil fuel exploration in the country.[7]

Field and Discovery operator data from Norwegian Petroleum, accessed February 23, 2021. [8] Remaining reserve data from Norwegian Petroleum, as of 12/31/2019 accessed February 24, 2020[9]
Company Name Fields Operated Discoveries Operated Remaining gas reserves (million Sm³ o.e)
Equinor Energy AS 59 163 491.04
Aker BP ASA 20 28 22.20
ConocoPhillips Skandinavia AS 9 11 28.96
Vår Energi AS 5 13 29.52
Wintershall Dea Norge AS 5 11 52.78
Repsol Norge AS 4 9 4.15
A/S Norske Shell 3 5 70.75
Lundin Energy Norway AS 3 3 5.08
Neptune Energy Norge AS 3 6 29.48
DNO Norge AS 2 2 1.71
Spirit Energy Norway AS 2 2 7.34
Total E&P Norge AS 2 3 77.66
Chrysaor Norge AS 1 2
OKEA ASA 1 1 0.86

The Government of Norway was the sole owner of Equinor Energy when it was established in 1972. As of 2020, the government holds 67 percent of the shares of Equinor Energy. Until 2018, Equinor Energy was known as Statoil.[10]

Historical Production

At year-end 2020, historical gas production from the Norwegian shelf amounted to 2,666.3 million standard cubic meters of oil equivalents.

Data from Norwegian Petroleum, accessed February 24, 2021[5]
Area Historical Production (million Sm³ o.e)
Barents Sea 63.35
Norwegian Sea 610.70
North Sea 1,992.30
Total 2,666.30


The first oil and gas field off the coast of Norway was discovered in 1968 and the first oil and gas field began producing in 1971. Originally, development of fields was limited to the North Sea. However, since the early 1970s, a total of 115 fields in Norway have produced hydrocarbons some of which have expanded northwards into the Norwegian Sea and the Barents Sea. As of 2020, 90 fields were producing fossil fuels in Norwegian waters. As of February 2021, ten additional fields are listed by the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) as "approved for production."[1]

The locations of the fields are shown on the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate Shelf Map (Sokkelkartet)[6] and its Interactive map.[11]

2020 Map of Fields in Norway, from the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate

North Sea

As of February 2021, there were 67 fields -- the vast majority of the Norwegian total -- operating in the North Sea. Troll oil and gas field the largest in the North Sea and Norway as a whole in terms of remaining reserves. Johan Sverdrup oil field is also located in the North Sea.[1]

Norwegian Sea

As of February 2021, there were 21 fields operating in the Norwegian Sea. Ormen Lange gas field is the largest fields in the Norwegian Sea in terms of remaining reserves.[1]

Barents Sea

There are, as of February 2021, three Norwegian fields in the Barents Sea: Goliat oil and gas field, Snohvit LNG Project and Johan Castberg Project. Goliat and Snohvit are currently producing fossil fuels while production from Johan Castberg is scheduled to start in late 2022.[12]


According to the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD), "only about one third of the Norway’s estimated gas resources have been produced so far. The production level is expected to remain high for the next 15-20 years."[3]

Of those two-thirds remaining, 63 percent are expected to be located in the Barents Sea, making it a main focus for exploration and future production in Norway. Due to warmer temperatures in the area, the Arctic Sea ice cover is fading. This has led several countries to attempt to find oil and gas discoveries in the northern frontier. Of all the countries in the circumpolar Arctic, Norway has allowed toil drilling the furthest north into the Arctic Sea. "Seismic surveys are being undertaken by the government in order to ascertain the prospects for future expansion", according to a Reclaim Finance report. The report adds that due to difficult geology, remoteness, "meager discoveries", and climate change, increasing activity in the Arctic Sea "looks like a gamble."[13]

As of February 2021, there were 16 discoveries listed by the NPD in the Barents Sea. Of these 16, production was listed as "likely" at eleven of them. Equinor Energy operates six of these discoveries, while Lundin Energy operates the other five. Total resource estimates for discoveries in the Barents Sea, as of February 2021, are 145.211 million standard cubic meters of oil equivalents.[14]

Total resource estimates for discoveries in the Norwegian Sea and North Sea, as of February 2021, are 201.522 and 339.66 million standard cubic meters of oil equivalents, respectively. Between all three areas, NDP estimates 686.40 million standard cubic meters of oil equivalents of undeveloped discoveries.[14]


United Nations "Visit to Norway" Report

In 2019, Dr. David R. Boyd, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, traveled to Norway "to examine how well Norway has been implementing its human rights obligations related to environmental protection, to identify good practices and to investigate the environmental challenges the country faces." In the resulting report, Boyd notes that Norway is "at the forefront of the global transition to a fossil-fuel free economy" due to 98% of its electric system being emissions free, its high share of electric vehicles, and its ban on fossil fuels for the heating of buildings. Yet, there is a paradox as Norway's "leadership in addressing the global climate emergency is undermined in some areas by its ongoing dependence on a large petroleum industry."[4]

The final recommendation of that report states that "Norway should prohibit further exploration for fossil fuels, reject further expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure."[4] After the report was released in 2019, four fields came on stream in 2020: Ærfugl oil and gas field, Dvalin gas field, Tor oil field and Skogul oil field. The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate projects increased "high production despite production restrictions" increasing to 253.20 million standard cubic meters of oil equivalents per year by 2025.[15]

The People vs. Arctic Oil

Greenpeace and Nature and Youth have argued that the governments licenses for companies to continue producing oil and gas are in violation of the constitutionally granted right to a healthy environment for current and future generations.[13] Föreningen Greenpeace Norden & Natur og Ungdom v. The Government of Norway (Case No. 20-051052SIV-HRET)[16], known as "The People vs. Arctic Oil", [17] was argued before the Norwegian Supreme Court in November of 2020.[18]

Dr. David R. Boyd, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, and Dr. Marcos A Orellana, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, filed an Amicus Curiae for the case. That document concludes that "the issuance of licences to explore for petroleum in the Barents Sea violates the right to a healthy environment in Article 112 and violates Articles 2 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights."[16]

In late 2020, Norway’s Supreme Court (Høyesterett) ruled in favour of the state (against Greenpeace and Nature and Youth) unanimously.[19]

Five Years Lost Report

According to Reclaim Finance, "expanding oil into the Arctic does not stand well with Norway’s signature on the Paris climate agreement, where all nations agree to keep global warming well below 2°C. Every year since 2015, the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy has awarded new rights to explore for more oil and gas, despite the urgent need to reduce fossil fuel consumption." As of 2019, Norway's total emissions potential is reportedly 4.5 Gigatons CO2e.[13]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 "Fields on the Norwegian continental shelf". Retrieved 2021-02-18.
  2. "Norway - The World Factbook". Retrieved 2021-02-22.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Exports of Norwegian oil and gas". Retrieved 2021-02-22.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Boyd, David (January 3, 2020). "Visit to Norway". Undocs. United Nations General Assembly. Retrieved February 23, 2020.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Historical production on the NCS". Retrieved 2021-02-24.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "Norway's petroleum history". Retrieved 2021-02-24.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Companies with production licence". Retrieved 2021-02-18.
  8. "Companies with production licence". Retrieved 2021-02-23.
  9. "Remaining reserves on the NCS". Retrieved 2021-02-24.
  10. Hill, Joshua S. (2018-03-15). "Oil & Gas Giant Statoil Proposes Changing Name To Equinor". CleanTechnica. Retrieved 2021-02-24.
  11. "Interactive map". Retrieved 2021-02-24.
  12. "Field: JOHAN CASTBERG". Retrieved 2021-02-18.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Jorde, Sigurd. "Five Years Lost - How the Finance Industry is Blowing the Paris Carbon Budget". Reclaim Finance. Retrieved 2021-02-22.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (February 23, 2021). "DISCOVERIES". NORWEGIAN PETROLEUM. Retrieved February 23, 2021.
  15. "The Shelf in 2020". Retrieved 2021-02-24.
  17. Greenpeace international. "People Vs Oil". GREENPEACE. Retrieved February 23, 2021.
  18. Staalesen, Atle (June 10, 2020). "Supreme Court to decide in landmark climate case against Arctic Oil in November". The Barents Observer. Retrieved February 22, 2021.
  19. "Arctic oil prevails over 'The People'". News in English. December 22, 2020. Retrieved February 22, 2021.

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