“North sea oil adventure over,” claims MP

Government weighs climate commitments against Danish jobs as cancellation of future oil extraction is considered

Green ambitions, paired with the withdrawal of the biggest North Sea oil extractor from the region, have thrown future oil exploration into doubt.

In the Danish Parliament, many are rejoicing, but the government itself is less excited.

Total washout 
Since 2018, Total has dominated oil and gas extraction in the Danish region of the North Sea after Maersk sold off its activities to the French company.

In the eighth tendering round of a future licensing agreement, however, Total has withdrawn its application. Its current license extends to 2046, and two further applications from other sources remain on the table that would see extraction continue until 2055.

For Signe Munk, the Socialistisk Folkeparti climate spokesperson, the withdrawal of the ‘supermajor’ oil giant is “a huge signal” of changing times – a sign that investment in further searches for oil in the area is riddled by too much uncertainty to be viable

“The government must realise that the oil adventure in the North Sea is over,” she said.

Green ambitions
Oil prices have fallen heavily this year, further fuelling calls to move to a greener alternative. “The next business adventure must be green, and that requires us to invest in new green solutions instead of pulling more oil out of the North Sea,” contended Munk.

Denmark already has strong environmental targets. By 2030 the country aims to have slashed greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent and to be totally fossil-fuel free by 2050. In this light, Total’s abandonment of the North Sea may be a blessing in disguise.

The Radikale climate spokesperson, Ruben Kidde, calls for Denmark to live up to its reputation: “The prices of oil have fallen so greatly that it is completely unreasonable that we in Denmark, now with much lower income from oil than we have historically had, compromise our role as a green pioneer.”

Government hesitant 
The Climate Council, which advises the government on climate issues, recommended earlier this year the cancellation of the eighth tender round, but the government is as yet non-committal.

In a press release, the Ministry for Climate, Energy and Utilities stated that emphasis must be placed on having a “good and stable framework for the remaining extraction of oil and gas”, yet the climate goals must also be taken into account.

Asked about the possible cancellation during Parliament’s opening debate on Thursday, PM Mette Frederiksen stated: “I do not know what lies in the question of cancelling all future oil prospecting.”

“We want Denmark to be fossil-free by 2050. Our North Sea policy must reflect this,” she added.

“At the same time, we need to take into account that North Sea oil is of great importance for jobs in Esbjerg and on the west coast.”