Three Norwegian Oil and Gas Field Permits Invalidated on Environmental Grounds

(Image: Aker BP)
(Image: Aker BP)

Three permits given by the Norwegian government to develop new offshore oil and gas fields were found to be invalid on Thursday because their environmental impact was not sufficiently assessed, in a ruling that could set a precedent for new fields.

Environmental campaign groups had asked the Oslo District Court to block the development of the three North Sea fields, citing a failure to consider the impact of the future use of all the extracted fossil fuels on the global climate through the greenhouse gases they will emit.

The lawsuit filed by Greenpeace and its partner Nature and Youth concerns Equinor's Breidablikk and Aker BP's Yggdrasil and Tyrving fields, which hold combined reserves of some 875 million barrels of oil equivalent.

"The court's conclusion is that the decisions on the plan for the development and operation of petroleum deposits for Breidablikk, Yggdrasil and Tyrving are invalid," said the ruling by Judge Lena Skjold Rafoss.

It said future emissions should have been assessed as part of the approval process, in line with a Supreme Court decision in 2020.

"An impact assessment ensures that dissenting voices are heard and considered, and that the decision-making basis is verifiable and available to the public," it added.

"This is important to safeguard democratic participation in decisions that may influence the environment."

The ruling applied only to the three recently approved fields "and not to other activity on the Norwegian continental shelf".

Norway's Energy Minister, Terje Aasland, said the government disagreed with the verdict and would consider appealing, in an emailed statement to Reuters.

"This is a full and complete victory for the climate over Norway," Greenpeace Norway head Frode Pleym told Reuters.

Output at Breidablikk can continue only until Dec. 31, 2024, the verdict said, adding that the developments of the two other fields had to be halted.

Breidablikk started production in October, four months ahead of schedule, while Tyrving and Yggdrasil are due to come on stream in 2025 and in 2027, respectively.

According to Equinor, Breidablikk was expected to plateau at 55,000-60,000 barrels per day in 2024-2026. There is no publicly available data for the current production level.

Norway's top court in 2020 dismissed a case against Arctic drilling brought by the two NGOs, concluding that parliament and the government had broad authority to award new oil acreage, but at the same time tightening requirements for impact assessments.

In the new lawsuit, the state argued that the ministry's decisions were valid as laws and regulations did not require Norway to assess the consequences of emissions from petroleum exports abroad.

State-controlled Equinor in a statement to Reuters said it was not a party in the case and that it expected Norwegian authorities to "pursue the matter further".

Other field partners include Poland's Orlen, Vaar Energi, majority-owned by Italy's Eni, and ConocoPhillips.

Aker BP and ConocoPhillips did not immediately reply to a request for comment. Vaar Energi and Orlen declined to comment.

(Reuters - Reporting by Gwladys Fouche and Nerijus Adomaitis, additional reporting by Karol Badohal, editing by Terje Solsvik, Kevin Liffey, Elaine Hardcastle)

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