Green groups condemn plans to exploit Barents Sea area thought to hold 18bn barrels. Norway has infuriated environmental groups by opening up a record number of blocks in the Arctic for oil exploration.
The oil ministry is offering 93 blocks in the Barents Sea, entirely in the Arctic Circle, with applications by companies expected by the end of November.
The move to open up areas in the Arctic, including parts until recently covered in ice as well as blocks close to an important nesting site for birds, was met with dismay by environmentalists.
Nina Jensen, head of the World Wildlife Fund in Norway, said: “It’s just a perfect example of the dichotomy of Norway as a leading environment nation. We are telling everybody else what to do. But for us, it’s not even business as usual; it’s escalating business as usual.”
Oil companies are optimistic about the prospects in the Barents Sea. Several chief executives have said they think it will be the world’s next big oil region.