OSLO - Agence France-Presse
A general view of the offshore Kristin oil and gas platform in the North Sea, about 100 km (62 miles) east from Kristiansund, June 25, 2012. REUTERS photo
Norway's ministry of petroleum and energy said Tuesday it would create a research centre focused on controversial oil and gas activities in the Arctic.
"The increased petroleum activity in northern areas will be strengthened through increased knowledge and new technology," Petroleum and Energy Minister Ola Borten Moe said in a statement.
"With the new centre, we move to create an environment of expertise in northern Norway. Our aim is that academia and businesses in the North cooperate to move forward the knowledge frontier linked to Arctic challenges," he added.
Norway is the world's seventh largest oil exporter and ranks second in terms of natural gas exports.
However, its production of the black gold has been steadily declining from a peak in 2001, leading industry players to demand the opening of new prospecting areas in the Arctic, something environmentalists oppose.
According to the US
Geological Survey, the Arctic is believed to hold 13 percent of the planet's undiscovered oil reserves and 30 percent of its undiscovered natural gas.
But pumping up the chilled riches is technologically challenging in a region with such a harsh climate, and is also controversial due to fears that such activities will be detrimental to the area's fragile and valuable ecosystem.
The research at the centre is to focus both on developping better technologies for Arctic oil and gas exploration and production and on how to do so in the safest possible way for the environment, ministry spokesman Haakon Smith Isaksen told AFP.
The centre, which is expected to open in mid-2013, would be based in a still undetermined location in northern Norway and "the research will be conducted in cooperation with other research groups in Norway and abroad," the ministry said in a statement.