Fears over Russian threat to Norway’s energy infrastructure

Oct 22, 2022, 11:36 PM | Updated: Oct 23, 2022, 11:46 pm

STAVANGER, Norway (AP) — Norwegian oil and gas workers normally don’t see anything more threatening than North Sea waves crashing against the steel legs of their offshore platforms. But lately they have noticed a more troubling sight: unidentified drones buzzing in the skies overhead.

With Norway replacing Russia as Europe’s main source of natural gas, military experts suspect the unmanned aircraft are Moscow’s doings. They list espionage, sabotage and intimidation as possible motives for the drone flights.

The Norwegian government has sent warships, coastguard vessels and fighter jets to patrol around the offshore facilities. Norway’s national guard stationed soldiers around onshore refineries that also were buzzed by drones.

Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre has invited the navies of NATO allies Britain, France and Germany to help address what could be more than a Norwegian problem.

Precious little of the offshore oil that provides vast income for Norway is used by the country’s 5.4 million inhabitants. Instead, it powers much of Europe. Natural gas is another commodity of continental significance.

“The value of Norwegian gas to Europe has never been higher,” Ståle Ulriksen, a researcher at the Royal Norwegian Naval Academy, said. “As a strategic target for sabotage, Norwegian gas pipelines are probably the highest value target in Europe.”

Closures of airports, and evacuations of an oil refinery and a gas terminal last week due to drone sightings caused huge disruptions. But with winter approaching in Europe, there is worry the drones may portend a bigger threat to the 9,000 kilometers (5,600 miles) of gas pipelines that spider from Norway’s sea platforms to terminals in Britain and mainland Europe.

Since the start of the war in Ukraine in late February, European Union countries have scrambled to replace their Russian gas imports with shipments from Norway. The suspected sabotage of the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines in the Baltic Sea last month happened a day before Norway opened a new Baltic pipeline to Poland.

Amund Revheim, who heads the North Sea and environment group for Norway’s South West Police force, said his team interviewed more than 70 offshore workers who have spotted drones near their facilities.

“The working thesis is that they are controlled from vessels or submarines nearby,” Revheim said.

Winged drones have a longer range, but investigators considered credible a sighting of a helicopter-style bladed model near the Sleipner platform, located in a North Sea gas field 250 kilometers (150 miles) from the coast.

Norwegian police have worked closely with military investigators who are analyzing marine traffic. Some platform operators have reported seeing Russian-flagged research vessels in close vicinity. Revheim said no pattern has been established from legal marine traffic and he is concerned about causing unnecessary, disruptive worry for workers.

But Ulriksen, of the naval academy, said the distinction between Russian civilian and military ships is narrow and the reported research vessels could fairly be described as “spy ships.”

The arrest of at least seven Russian nationals caught either carrying or illegally flying drones over Norwegian territory has raised tensions. On Wednesday, the same day a drone sighting grounded planes in Bergen, Norway’s second-biggest city, the Norwegian Police Security Service took over the case from local officers.

“We have taken over the investigation because it is our job to investigate espionage and enforce sanction rules against Russia,” Martin Bernsen, an official with the service known by the Norwegian acronym PST. He said the “sabotage or possible mapping” of energy infrastructure was an ongoing concern.

Støre, the prime minister, warned that Norway would take action against foreign intelligence agencies. “It is not acceptable for foreign intelligence to fly drones over Norwegian airports. Russians are not allowed to fly drones in Norway,” he said.

Russia’s Embassy in Oslo hit back Thursday, claiming that Norway was experiencing a form of “psychosis” causing “paranoia.”

Naval academy researcher thinks that is probably part of the plan.

“Several of the drones have been flown with their lights on,” he said. “They are supposed to be observed. I think it is an attempt to intimidate Norway and the West.”

The wider concern is that they are part of a hybrid strategy to both intimidate and gather information on vital infrastructure, which could later be targeted for sabotage in a potential strike against the West.

“I do not believe we are heading for a conventional war with Russia,” Ulriksen said. “But a hybrid war … I think we are already in it.”

___

Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Sri Lankan government soldiers march carrying national flags during the 75th Independence Day cerem...
Associated Press

Sri Lanka marks independence anniversary amid economic woes

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka marked its 75th independence anniversary on Saturday as a bankrupt nation, with many citizens angry, anxious and in no mood to celebrate. Many Buddhists and Christian clergy had announced a boycott of the celebration in the capital, while activists and others expressed anger at what they see as […]
1 day ago
FILE - President Joe Biden delivers his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Cong...
Associated Press

Biden makes progress on ‘unity agenda’ outlined in 2022

WASHINGTON (AP) — A year ago, President Joe Biden used his first State of the Union address to push top Democratic priorities that were sure to face a battle in the narrowly divided Congress but he also laid out a four-pronged “unity agenda” that would be an easier sell. Biden’s unity goals would be hard […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

New California oil well ban put on hold for voters to decide

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California’s new law banning new oil and gas wells near homes, schools and other community sites has been put on hold until after voters decide next year whether to throw it out, officials announced Friday. Opponents of Senate Bill 1137 gathered more than 623,000 valid voter signatures to put a referendum […]
1 day ago
FILE - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks after being sworn in to begin his second term during an ina...
Associated Press

Florida lawmakers to meet next week on Disney, immigration

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida lawmakers will meet next week to complete a state takeover of Walt Disney World’s self-governing district and debate proposals on immigration and election crimes, as Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to leverage national political fissures ahead of an expected White House run. Republican leaders of the Legislature, in coordination with […]
1 day ago
FILE - Johnny Thai, 11, receives the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a pediatric vaccine clinic for chil...
Associated Press

California won’t require COVID vaccine to attend schools

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Children in California won’t have to get the coronavirus vaccine to attend schools, state public health officials confirmed Friday, ending one of the last major restrictions of the pandemic in the nation’s most populous state. Gov. Gavin Newsom first announced the policy in 2021, saying it would eventually apply to all […]
1 day ago
Part of the 988helpline.org website is photographed Friday, Feb. 3, 2023. A cyberattack caused a ne...
Associated Press

Feds say cyberattack caused suicide helpline’s outage

WASHINGTON (AP) — A cyberattack caused a nearly daylong outage of the nation’s new 988 mental health helpline late last year, federal officials told The Associated Press Friday. Lawmakers are now calling for the federal agency that oversees the program to prevent future attacks. “On December 1, the voice calling functionality of the 988 Lifeline […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Company looking for oldest air conditioner and wants to reward homeowner with new one

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...
DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
Fears over Russian threat to Norway’s energy infrastructure