Nov 10, 2022
Climate campaigners in Norway applauded Thursday as state-owned energy giant Equinor announced it would postpone plans to develop an oil field in the Arctic Ocean, as analysts suggested the proposal will likely be put aside indefinitely.
Equinor said the proposed Wisting oil field, which would have been its fourth hydrocarbon project in the Arctic, has grown too expensive due to global inflation and supply chain issues--but campaigners credited sustained pressure as a factor that pushed the company to abandon the project.
"Mobilizing works!" said Julia Levin, national climate program manager for the Canadian group Environmental Defense. "Kudos to folks campaigning against Equinor who managed to get this huge win."
\u201cNorwegian state oil company Equinor announces to abandon plans taken earlier this year to explore oil at Wisting in the Arctic. \nThis is historic and certainly not disconnected from public pressure. \nhttps://t.co/9CDcLAZ81F\u201d— Carola Rackete (@Carola Rackete) 1668069309
Noting that the estimated cost of the project has ballooned from about 75 billion Norwegian krones ($7 billion) to 104 billion krones ($10 billion), Equinor said that instead of deciding whether to move ahead with the project by the end of this year, it has set a new deadline of 2026.
"Postponed four years, they say," said Per-Erik Schulze, a marine biologist with the Norwegian Society for The Conservation of Nature. "Read: most probably forever."
John Olaisen, an analyst at brokerage firm ABG Sundal Collier in Oslo, told Reuters that Equinor "will need a new government... and very high oil and gas prices for the next two decades" in order to revisit the Wisting project.
Opposition to Wisting is growing in the Norwegian Parliament, Reuters reported, particularly among members of the ruling Labour Party.
Friends of the Earth Norway called Equinor's announcement "a huge victory and a massive step towards a just transition!"
\u201c\ud83d\udea8\ud83d\udea8\ud83d\udea8BREAKING FROM NORWAY\ud83d\udea8\ud83d\udea8\ud83d\udea8\n\nState-owned petroleum company Equinor abandons plans for the world's northernmost oil field, Wisting, in the Arctic!\n\nPostponed 4 years = most likely forever.\n\nA huge victory and a massive step towards a just transition! https://t.co/6B7ScSPRDt\u201d— Naturvernforbundet (@Naturvernforbundet) 1668073470
"This means that 200 million tons of carbon dioxide will stay in the ground," Frode Pleym, head of Greenpeace Norway, told Reuters. "It means that vulnerable and valuable nature is left alone."
While Wisting has been shelved, potentially for good, Equinor is also planning to develop the Bay du Nord oil field about 300 miles northeast of St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. The company says it is "working towards a final investment decision with first oil expected to be produced in the late 2020s," even as energy and climate experts warn that there is no place for continued fossil fuel extraction as policymakers work to draw down emissions and mitigate the warming of the planet.
"To be a true climate leader, Norway should end the proliferation of all new oil and gas projects," said the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative.
With the Wisting project likely defeated, said Levin, "Next up, Bay du Nord."
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