The supposed silver lining in the large storm cloud that is global ice melt, was that in the absence of the Arctic ice cap, oil companies would be free to drill into virgin seabed.
Nowhere was this more so than the Barents Sea above Norway’s North Cape, which was promoted to investors as a multi-billion barrel oil field just waiting for someone to come along and drill it. The presence of a developed offshore oil industry in the neighbouring North Sea made the region even more attractive, since all of the equipment, services, supplies and skilled workers needed to drill the Barents Sea bed are already in place. Indeed, with North Sea production falling, many of them are lying idle, and thus cheaper than might otherwise be the case.
Sadly (for the energy industry but not the planet) all of that investment hype appears to be fantasy. As Richard Milne in the Financial Times reports:
“Statoil has found no oil and only a non-commercial amount of gas in the most highly regarded Norwegian Arctic oil field, raising further questions on whether the Barents Sea can live up to its billing as the next big petroleum region.
“Korpfjell was seen as the most exciting prospect in the new first new acreage Norway had offered in decades… The absence of oil caps a torrid time for Statoil in the Barents Sea. It drilled no wells in the Norwegian Arctic in 2015 and 2016 after a disappointing campaign previously in the Barents.”
The Barents Sea has followed a familiar pattern – readily witnessed in the UK shale (fracking) industry – in which unwary investors (including governments) are suckered-in by lurid investment brochures and glaring media headlines promising billions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic metres of gas, before it transpires that little or no profitable oil and gas can actually be recovered. By then, of course, the investors’ money has been spent.