In 2011, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimated Norway’s technically recoverable shale gas reserves to be approximately 83 trillion cubic feet (tcf).1 However, by 2013, EIA’s estimate had decreased from 83 tcf to zero due to results obtained from three wells drilled in the Alum Shale by Shell Oil Company in 2011.2 A 2015 EIA report noted that there may be a modest volume of shale gas in the Oslo Graben of Norway, but that data was insufficient to make a reliable estimate.3
Norway’s shale gas potential exists predominantly in the Alum Shale, depicted in the following map:
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration: Technically Recoverable Shale Oil and Shale Gas Resources: An Assessment of 137 Shale Formations in 41 Countries Outside the United States (June 2013): http://www.eia.gov/analysis/studies/worldshalegas/pdf/fullreport.pdf
Norway has a well-developed offshore oil and gas industry. As of 2016, Norway had approximately 1.76 tcm in proved natural gas reserves.4 Norway produced approximately 116 bcm of natural gas in 2016, and consumed only about 5 bcm.5 As a result, Norway is not dependent on developing any shale gas reserves, and, accordingly, one assessment of the potential for hydraulic fracturing activity in Norway has concluded that “any extraction of shale gas will not be economically viable in the foreseeable future.”6
Statutory and Regulatory Framework
The development of oil and gas resources onshore in Norway is generally governed by Act No. 21 of May 4, 1973 on Exploration and Exploitation of Onshore Petroleum Resources (Act No. 21).7 Act No. 21 provides that the right to “petroleum” under the surface of Norwegian soil, and such part of the seabed subject to private land rights, lies with the Norwegian state. In this regard, “petroleum” includes mineral oils, related hydrocarbons and gases, which exist in natural form under the soil.8 The King of Norway can grant Norwegian and foreign companies the right to explore and produce shale gas.9 Act No. 21 further provides that the King can make additional rules for the exploration and production of shale gas.10 However, no such rules have been enacted in connection with the exploration and production of petroleum onshore to date.
In October 2010, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate reported that it would not be economically viable to develop shale oil and gas in Norway for the foreseeable future.11 Reasons included the thickness and formation process of the shale itself,12 as well as the high costs distributed to onshore service companies in the region.13
Last updated September 2018.