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Deep water drilling via tunnel

Norwegian engineering company North Energy has proposed plans for using tunnels when drilling for oil in near-shore areas. This would minimise the risk for pollution in vulnerable regions like Lofoten.

The company suggests that tunnels of up to 40km in length be drilled from shore to the oil or gas find. Here a large hall would be excavated, to make room for the drilling and production equipment. The oil and gas would then be piped to shore through the tunnel. The plan also calls for at least one more tunnel to be drilled, for security reasons and to handle a possible blow-out.
The classification and risk management company Veritas has approved the technical solutions involved, and North Energy points to the fact that Norwegian companies have long experience in tunnel building under difficult conditions in several parts of the world, including Svalbard.

Norwegian environmental organisations have so far opposed opening the Lofoten and Vesterålen waters for exploration, since they are important spawning grounds for several vital fish stocks. Fishermen say there is no room for both drilling rigs and fishing vessels.

Others also point to the danger from an oil spill to nature, marine life and birds, and to the tourist industry, as seen from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

- The project is realistic, but the cost would vary with different rock quality, says North Energy CEO Erik Karlstrøm to the newspaper Aftenposten.

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