A young ambassador´s immediate thoughts on “Offshore energy and mineral resource prospects” in the Arctic
Offshore resource prospects: The great dilemma of utilization vs. environmental protection. Or is it a dilemma? Siri Espedal Kindem, representing Equinor and the oil sector doesn’t think so (“there is still room for oil and gas exploration in the Arctic”). This might not come as a shock (the oil sector declaring itself a somewhat of a dying species – or dinosaur as someone put it? I don’t think so). But it has some actuality to it. The oil industry might be dying – but not as quickly as the environment needs it too (yes, we will still need oil and gas in the future). In addition, the oil business has some of the utmost competence when it comes to offshore utilization of natural resources. This is seen as an opportunity for the oil companies to contribute to a so-called green shift, where the offshore sector can offer valuable experience and expertise.
So, the oil- and gas sector needs to “go green” (according to Myles Allen, professor of Geosystem Science at Oxford, this could happen through carbon capture and storage or CCS). At the same time, governments are opening up for other types of extraction from the sea bed (last year Norway proposed a new Act on Offshore Mineral Exploration). These resources are not – in difference from hopefully shortly, oil and gas – seeing a decrease in demand. As Ingrid Schjølberg of NTNU Oceans put it “did you know that important components in all your devices (mobile phone, tablet, computer etc.) contain minerals?”. Minerals – like zinc, manganese and cobalt – are found on the sea bed. On question about the environmental impact of these processes Schjølberg seemed to apply the “pave the road as you walk it” principle. The problem, however, seems to be that we simply don’t know enough about the environmental impact. E.g. in one area where exploration for minerals on the deep seabed has taken place, researchers discovered that about 50% of the species in the area were previously undiscovered.
Seabed mining in the Arctic is in need of a green shift or at least a serious precautionary approach, before it has even fully started.
By Markus Aurelius Beckstrøm Laurantzon, Masters, China University of Political Science and Law
DISCLAIMER: These posts are contributions from participants in Arctic Frontiers Young Ambassadors program and do not necessarily reflect the views of Arctic Frontiers.