Norway to keep searching for oil and gas, new centre-left government says

Oil and gas company Statoil gas processing and CO2 removal platform Sleipner T is pictured in the offshore near the Stavanger
Oil and gas company Statoil gas processing and CO2 removal platform Sleipner T is pictured in the offshore near the Stavanger, Norway, February 11, 2016. REUTERS/Nerijus Adomaitis
  • Will "develop, not dismantle" oil industry
  • Won't try to renegotiate EEA deal with Brussels

HURDAL, Norway, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Norway will continue to explore for oil and gas in the next four years, with most new drilling permits to come in mature areas of the sea, the incoming centre-left government said on Wednesday.

A minority coalition of the Labour Party and the rural Centre Party will take power on Thursday after defeating the Conservative-led government in last month's election.

"The Norwegian petroleum industry will be developed, not dismantled," the two parties said in a joint policy document, adding that it will maintain the existing system of handing out exploration licences.

While climate change was a major issue debated during the campaign for parliament, Labour has said it wants to ensure any transition away from oil and gas, and the jobs it creates, towards green energy is a gradual one.

Norway is western Europe's largest oil and gas producer, pumping around four million barrels of oil equivalent per day and deriving half its export revenues from hydrocarbons so far this year.

The oil industry welcomed the new government's plans.

"Giving access to attractive acreage is the most important measure authorities have to ensure continued development and value creation from oil and gas, but also to finance a green transition," said Norwegian Oil and Gas, a lobby group.

Complicating the situation, the new minority government must seek support from opposition parties in parliament for its policies, however, some of which seek to curtail the oil industry's drilling.

"We are about to get a new government but with the same fossil and irresponsible policies as the previous one," Frode Pleym, head of Greenpeace Norway, told Reuters. "The government platform means full steam ahead on continued oil exploration."

The agreement on the European Economic Area, allowing Norway to be part of the EU single market without being a member of the European Union, will remain in place, said Jonas Gahr Stoere, who will become prime minister in the new government.

"The EEA agreement is the basis of our relationship with Europe," Stoere told reporters.

But Oslo will discuss more often specific cases of EU rules and legislation for implementation, according toStoere's coalition partner, Trygve Slagsvold Vedum.

"We do not want this privatisation of railways that the previous government has done," Vedum told reporters. "We will see the concrete cases as they come."

Additional reporting by Terje Solsvik and Nerijus Adomaitis, editing by Gwladys Fouche and Mark Heinrich

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