January 17, 2011 / 9:14 PM / 10 years ago

Oil-rich Norway welcomes BP-Rosneft Arctic deal

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway, the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter and a neighbor of Russia with great ambitions for energy exploration in the High North, welcomed on Monday the share swap and Arctic exploration deal between BP (BP.L) and Rosneft.

The British major and Russia’s largest oil firm (ROSN.MM) have agreed to form a joint venture to develop three of Rosneft’s offshore exploration blocks in northern Russia.

Oslo, which last year resolved an Arctic border dispute with Moscow — paving the way for opening to offshore oil activities an area as big as half of Germany — said the deal was positive.

“We are encouraged by international oil companies being introduced to the Russian Arctic offshore,” Per Rune Henriksen, Norway’s deputy oil and energy minister, told Reuters in an email.

“Norway has employed international oil companies in its Arctic region for decades, because this adds to pluralism in a constructive and rewarding manner.”

Among foreign companies present in the Nordic country, Italy’s Eni (ENI.MI) is developing the Barents Sea’s first oil field off northern Norway.

Norway, the world’s second-largest gas exporter, is keen to develop its Arctic riches as its North Sea reserves decline.

The Nordic nation of 4.9 million inhabitants is also keen to play a political role in a region dominated by bigger nations Russia, the U.S. and Canada.

Henriksen noted that Norway’s state-owned oil firm Statoil STL.OL has been collaborating with Russian gas firm Gazprom GZP.MM for years to develop the huge Shtokman field in the Barents Sea.

Editing by Carol Bishopric

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