Norway, Europe’s biggest natural gas supplier after Russia, said signals from the European Union on the importance of the fuel in its future energy mix boost the case for a new pipeline in the Barents Sea.

“The signals we get from the EU increase the possibility for that,” Norway’s Petroleum and Energy Minister Tord Lien said in an interview in Oslo on Friday. “But we don’t have full overview of the resources in Barents Sea yet -- we must first map that.”

Norway sought a “clear message” on the importance of gas to the EU in a letter last month to its Climate Action Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete. Norway expects a law package from the Commission next week to state that the fuel can play an important role in reducing emissions and to focus on the need for new infrastructure, Lien said Friday.

Norway, whose gas exports to Europe hit a record last year, has yet to produce two thirds of its resources. About half of the country’s undiscovered gas resources are thought to lie under the Barents Sea, a frontier area lacking infrastructure. Demand signals from the EU will be important as companies make decisions in the coming decade on developing those resources either by expanding liquefaction and shipping capacity or investing in a new pipeline connected directly to European markets, Lien and two of his government colleagues said in the Jan. 29 letter.

At an EU-Norway energy conference in Brussels last week, Canete said natural gas will remain an important part of the EU’s energy mix, calling Norway a trusted and stable partner.

Snoehvit, operated by Statoil ASA, is the only gas field in production in the Norwegian Barents Sea to date, with gas liquefied at Hammerfest before it is shipped to customers. Norway sells more than 95 percent of its gas to Europe through a network of pipelines.

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