(Bloomberg) -- As policymakers in Dubai search for consensus on tackling climate change, the scale of the challenge is evident in the stormy waters of the North Sea, where Norway is opening another gas field.
Petroleum and Energy Minister Terje Aasland on Friday unveiled the ConocoPhillips-operated Tommeliten A gas development in the southern reaches of Norway’s economic zone. In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, gas supplies from Norway are key to safeguarding Europe’s energy security in the coming years.
But the development of that field and others in the waters off Norway spotlight the tensions at COP28 in Dubai, where thousands of politicians, campaigners and business leaders are trying to edge the world toward a potential commitment on phasing out fossil fuels.
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Norway — where vast hydropower reservoirs and a world-leading electric car fleet contrast with strategic petroleum resources that feed a $1.5 trillion sovereign wealth fund — is a microcosm of that debate. Rather than putting an end date on the oil and gas industry, Norway wants to use the engineering know-how from the sector to drive the development of renewable energy.
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On Friday, cake was served for the opening of the new gas resource on one of the many platforms of the Ekofisk field, where Norway’s petroleum success all began with the discovery of oil in 1969 by Phillips Petroleum. The giant field was originally estimated to contain more than 3 billion barrels of recoverable oil and will remain a hub for fields in the southern region for years to come.
The new field — estimated to hold 150 million barrels of oil equivalent — started pumping in October, sending oil and wet gas to Teesside in the UK and gas to Emden in Germany via the giant Ekofisk field.
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“It shows that it is also possible to invest in smaller projects, as long as you have the infrastructure nearby and have access to the market,” Aasland said in an interview on the platform. Once they found the right method, “they got the project in place quickly and contributed to deliveries to Europe coming up quickly — and we really need that.”
Among those attending the event on Friday was Marek Woszczyk, the head of the Norwegian operations for Orlen SA, formerly known as PGNiG, which holds about 42% of Tommeliten A. They want to secure gas supply as part of a seven-year strategy to move away from Russian deliveries and reduce the need for coal-burning power stations.
Gas is not just important for the energy security of the region, “but also in terms of the transition from a relatively heavier CO2 footprint to a less carbon intensive energy mix for Poland and neighboring countries,” Woszczyk said in an interview.
(Updates with comments from energy minister in seventh paragraph, Orlen comment in final two paragraphs.)
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