Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Ice shrink in Arctic sea may attract oil firms

Just what the delicate, imperiled polar regions need -- a yee-haw oil rush. From Environment News Network, via Reuters: Winter sea ice around a Norwegian Arctic island has thinned to less than one meter (3 feet) since the 1960s, according to a study on Tuesday of a region that may be more attractive to oil firms because of climate change.

The Norwegian Polar Institute said ice around Hopen island southeast of the Svalbard archipelago had become more than 40 cms (16 inches) thinner in the past 40 years, in what it called the first long-term study of ice thickness in the Barents Sea.

... Oil and gas companies are pushing north into the Barents Sea, seeking new reserves. Scientists say climate change may make the region less inhospitable and prices around $100 a barrel can justify exploration despite high costs. Norway's biggest oil firm, StatoilHydro, operates the Snoehvit gas field in the south of the Barents Sea that opened in September last year. Russian gas giant Gazprom holds a 51 percent share in the company that plans to develop the vast Shtokman gas field to the east. France's Total owns 25 percent and StatoilHydro 24 percent.

New polar bear haven -- an oil rig photographed by Chad Teer, Wikimedia Commons

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