Preparing for opening around Jan Mayen

30/09/2009 The Government has decided to initiate an opening process for petroleum activities around Jan Mayen, with the intention of awarding production licences.


Storting White Paper 37 (2008-2009) Comprehensive management of the marine environment in the Norwegian Sea (the management plan) forms the basis for the opening process for the waters on the Norwegian side of Jan Mayen.

The first step in the opening process is a more detailed mapping of the basis for petroleum-related and environmental values in this area. One of the measures that will be carried out is an impact assessment as regards petroleum activities.

The Ministry of Petroleum and Energy (MPE) is responsible for implementing such an impact assessment, while the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) will play a role in the work of mapping the petroleum resource base.

Exploration Director Sissel Eriksen

On the initiative of Minister of Petroleum and Energy Terje Riis-Johansen, a Norwegian delegation recently visited Jan Mayen. The NPD was represented by Director General Bente Nyland and Exploration Director Sissel Eriksen (above).

”With the data available today, we cannot say anything about the resource base or the oil and gas potential on the shelf around Jan Mayen,” comments Sissel Eriksen.

She maintains that more data is needed to improve the available knowledge about the area. Acquisition of seismic data and shallow drilling are common methods of mapping the subsurface.

”We have some seismic data already, but the distance between the lines is far too great. We also have some shallow drilling data, but these are not optimally located, in part because of the inferior seismic data. That is why we need more data, both seismic and shallow boreholes.”

What we do know about the area around Jan Mayen is that it contains both rocks that can form petroleum (source rocks) and rocks that can store petroleum (reservoir rocks). Before the Norwegian Sea was formed, Jan Mayen was connected to Norway and Eastern Greenland.

”We are reasonably certain that we will find the same rocks off Jan Mayen as we have seen on Haltenbanken and near Eastern Greenland," says Eriksen.

When the Norwegian Sea was formed, the subsurface cracked, releasing large volumes of lava. This hardened lava, or basalt, lies on top of and in-between the geological strata.

”The basalt "masks" the underlying rocks, making it difficult to obtain good data," explains the exploration director.

The shelf outside Jan Mayen is characterised by deep water (1000-2000 metres). The mean temperature in summer is 5-8 degrees Celsius, while the winter temperature averages -2-0 degrees Celsius. Wind speeds average six metres per second during the summer, and ten metres per second in the winter. Fog is often prevalent during the summer months. Icing may occur during the winter months, but with the current climate there is no danger of sea ice. The waves are lower than is the case off Norway's western coast, and the 100-year wave is 12 metres, compared with 14 metres in the North Sea. (Source: The Icelandic energy agency Orkustofnun) 

”Deep water, the long distance from land and to pipelines and production facilities, as well as the location quite far from the market, means that profitable development would require a relatively large discovery," comments Eriksen.

Going forward, the MPE's process involves preparing an outline of what must be studied – i.e. a proposed study program. The proposed study program must be submitted for consultation, and the consultation bodies will have an opportunity to comment. Based on the input and the draft program, the MPE will determine the final program before the impact assessment is implemented.

The studies, the consultation submissions and other relevant information that emerges during the process will form the basis for the Storting White Paper which will be submitted to the Storting prior to a final resolution on whether or not to open the area.

The first licensing round on the Icelandic shelf was announced this spring, with awards planned for the autumn of 2009. The licensing round includes blocks in the Icelandic portion of the Jan Mayen ridge (the Dreki area).

Flora from Jan Mayen

Updated: 30/09/2009