ANCHORAGE — Norway’s king opened a conference on Arctic offshore drilling Wednesday with a plug for incorporating his country’s expertise into drilling off Alaska’s northern shores.
“Norway and Alaska have much to learn from each other and plenty to gain from increasing our economic collaboration in the Arctic, particularly in the oil and gas sector,” King Harald V told industry representatives at the Arctic Offshore Operations Conference in Anchorage.
The 78-year-old king, nearing the end of a seven-day U.S. trip and his first to Alaska, jumped in on an issue that has drawn bitter opposition from environmental groups.
Drilling critics say oil companies have not demonstrated they can clean up major spills, especially in cold, dark, remote Arctic waters. They also say industrial activity will harm threatened wildlife already affected by climate change.
The prize for oil companies is an estimated 48 billion barrels of oil, with 90 percent in less than 330 feet of water.
Like Norwegians, Alaskans have adapted to rugged terrain and harsh climate and have built a thriving society based on responsible and long-term use of natural resources, the king said.
“Today, Norway and Alaska are both are well positioned to make use of the growing interest in the Arctic, to develop new industries and create jobs,” he said.
Norway’s oil and gas industry began at the end of the 1960s with no experience in upstream oil and gas operations, he said. Knowledge and technology from multinational corporations such as Phillips Petroleum, Mobil, Conoco and Amoco was essential to what has become the “Norwegian oil adventure,” he said.
The country’s open and international approach to its oil and gas industry has led to one of the world’s most complete and advanced offshore clusters in northern waters, he said, with world-class shipbuilding companies, firms that excel in subsea and seismic technologies, and oil spill recovery companies. Representatives were at the conference to share experience and make connections, he said.
“I am confident that Norwegian companies will make worthwhile and responsible partners to Alaska’s oil industry,” he said.
The conference is sponsored by INTSOK, a trade organization established by the Norwegian government and its oil and gas companies. A goal for the group is to promote the Norwegian oil and gas industry in overseas markets.
Norway already has interest in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s northwest coast. Statoil, the oil company partially owned by the Norwegian government, was the successful bidder on 16 tracts in the 2008 Chukchi sale.
The only company poised to drill in U.S. Arctic waters is Royal Dutch Shell PLC, which hopes to drill four exploratory wells over two years in the Chukchi, beginning this summer, using two drill rigs, including the 400-foot Polar Pioneer. Shell wants to use the Port of Seattle to stage the rig, and hundreds of protesters in kayaks this month demonstrated there against Arctic drilling.