The Norwegian government is looking into the possibility of using Svalbard for oil and gas infrastructure. The unique nature of Svalbard has until now been thought to fragile for any kind of petroleum work.
The increased petroleum activities in the northern seas are reaching Svalbard but it is said to be influenced heavily by geopolitics, politics, commercial interests and environmental protection.
The Norwegian Ministry of Environment has asked for Svalbard to be evaluated as a world heritage site by UNESCO.
In relation to that work, it will be assessed what impacts it would have on Svalbard to be any kind of use for petroleum activities in the northern Barents sea, these include logistics, supply, and land bases, says Eldbjørg Waage Melberg from the oil ministry.
Oil analyst and former Secretary of State for Petroleum and Energy, Hans Henrik Ramm, believes it will be a huge mistake to look away from new business opportunities on Svalbard.
„You must use balance different interests, including industrial opportunities. It is not reasonable to adopt protective measures to limit future choices, especially if it involves the transfer of decision making from Norway, as one does by seeking World Heritage status," says Ramm.
Norway produces coal in Svalbard but tourism and research are high on the agenda on the archipelago, as well as the Svalbard University Center.