June 8, 2011 / 3:55 PM / in 6 years

Norway to start tests in new Barents zone in July

* Scans to start when Russia-Norway border treaty in force

* Norway says region may contain significant resources

* PGS vessel to scan Jan Mayen, Barents regions in June/July

OSLO, June 8 (Reuters) - Norway will in July start collecting seismic data in a newly delineated region of the Barents Sea, after a new Norwegian-Russian maritime border agreement comes into force, the government said on Wednesday.

The Oil and Energy Ministry said that the southeastern Barents Sea, which is now officially part of the Norwegian shelf after the border treaty finalised the disputed boundary, “may contain significant petroleum resources”.

“We can now start collecting seismic data in the (region) as soon as the agreement enters into force (on July 7),” Oil and Energy Minister Ola Borten Moe said in a statement.

Knowledge about the region is “very limited”, he added.

Seismic studies are used to evaluate the potential for oil and gas resources, which could lead to production in the remote Arctic region. For drilling to begin, Norway would need to formally open the region for offshore exploration.

Norway’s powerful oil industry has for years lobbied to get access to new offshore areas to sustain the Nordic state’s oil boom even as output from North Sea oilfields falls.

But environmentalists have been seeking to keep the remaining Arctic regions closed for oil and gas activity, fearing spills would ruin the pristine and fish-rich waters.

The oil ministry said Norway will start on June 10 a seismic study around its Jan Mayen island in the north Atlantic, located northeast of Iceland in remote waters that have similar geological features to resource-rich regions off Greenland.

The seismic vessel Explorer Harrier, owned by Petroleum Geo-Services (PGS.OL), will perform the data acquisition off Jan Mayen before moving to the southeastern Barents.

Reporting by Wojciech Moskwa; editing by Keiron Henderson

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