Objectives/Scope

Arctic hydrocarbons were written off when oil prices dropped. Yet, the Arctic is diverse, and there are some fields with attractive economics. Since circumpolar littoral states do not subsidize hydrocarbon resource developments, operators must confirm fields’ financial viability in a global trading context, that is if governments let them. The objective of this paper is to assess to what extent circumpolar governments facilitate hydrocarbon exploitation in their Arctic areas.

Method, Procedure, Process

The paper will assess governments’ facilitation by making a qualitative comparison along two axes: (i) ease of use of safety regulations (ii) general investment friendliness.

There is some debate about maritime activities in the Arctic; yet why is the debate about hydrocarbonresources much more heated?

Maritime activities apparently have an implicit license to operate. Not so for hydrocarbon developments. Such resource development is firmly anchored inside the national regulatory remit. Some countries have a liberal, permissive approach to resource developments, while other countries are more restrictive and precautionary. What is the overall regulatory situation today?

Russia – controlling the largest share of prospective Arctic resource territories, has a relatively liberal, investment friendly view on activities, yet still has a young, immature offshore safety regulatory approach.

Norway –has an open operator policy, with many competing players. The political mood has, however changed, as the activities have moved North. Environmental and climate concerns are cited. Operators today are therefore not so sure about Norway's future license policies.

Greenland – is investment friendly, yet also the country hit hardest by typical Arctic challenges of remoteness and high cost of operations. Greenland is positive to performance-based, forward-looking regulations, but regulatory experience is limited.

Canada's resources are located so that Arctic cold climate industry activities are something "normal", and not exotic. The regulatory system is performance based, which allows for new technologies. Up until recently Canada therefore was a country where the government is ready for Arctic hydrocarbon developments. The 2017 Arctic offshore development moratorium changed that overall position.

In the US – state decisions are relatively strong vis-à-vis the federal government. Since most offshore developments are inside the federal remit, Alaska is in a situation where strong state support may conflict with the electoral changes taking place in Washington DC. Does the US now have a prescriptive or a risk-based (performance-based) approach to safety? Norway took a 180 degree move from prescriptive to performance-based regulations after Piper Alfa (1988). It does not appear that the US has made this turn after Macondo.

Results, Observations, Conclusions

Safety regulatory developments are moving ahead, expecting further resource developments. Political discussions in different countries may still lead to different investment climates in each country.

Novel/Additive Information

Where companies should invest is not part of this presentation. Arctic resource developments take place in all the countries addressed in this paper, so Arctic hydrocarbons indeed have a place in today's energy markets. All countries assessed could still improve further – to a greater or lesser degree – their respective investment climate for such resource developments.

This content is only available via PDF.
You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.