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The Faroe Islands are a self-governing country within the Danish Realm. An archipelago of 18 major islands between the Norwegian Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, it lies halfway between Norway and Iceland and northwest of the UK.
Settlers lived on the Faroes from 400 AD with Norsemen arriving in 800 AD. In 1397 Norway entered the Kalmar Union with Denmark and the islands gradually reverted to Danish control. When this was dissolved, as a result of the Treaty of Kiel in 1814, Denmark retained possession of the Faroe Islands (along with Greenland and Iceland).
A trade monopoly was abolished in 1856 after which the area developed as a fishing nation with its own fleet. In 1888 the country began to assert its nationality and by 1906 political parties had been created.
During World War 2 Britain occupied the country to counterbalance Germany’s invasion of Denmark, building the only airport.
After the war Denmark returned, introducing home-rule in 1948. With the collapse of the North Sea fishing industry in the 1990s the economy has been stretched but efforts to diversify are proceeding.
The islands are rugged and rocky with some low peaks and coastlines made of cliffs. The highest point is Slættaratindur at 882m. The geology is basalt, part of the Thulean Plateau, a basaltic lava plain, which formed during the Paleogene during the opening of the North Atlantic.
The Faroes currently have no oil and gas production but, offshore to the southeast of the islands lies the West of Shetland sedimentary basin, mostly in the UK, which has both oil and gas fields. Thus the Faroes has some potential for similar fields to those found in this region. The first offshore well in the Faroes (Marjun-1) was drilled in 2001 targeted at this play. It tested some oil.
As yet, no commercial discoveries have been made from the less than 10 wells that have been drilled. Nevertheless, Globalshift forecasts that oil production could begin in the mid- or late-2020s. No gas production is expected due to the lack of a nearby pipeline market. The geology of the islands precludes any onshore potential.
Map and National Flag
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Land area (sq kms)
Oil prod (000s b/d)
Gas prod (bcm/yr)
Oil cons (000s b/d)
Gas cons (bcm/yr)
The Danish monarch is head of state. The Faroese government holds executive power in local affairs with the head of the government as prime minister.
The Faroese have control of most domestic matters but military defence, police, justice, currency and foreign affairs remain the responsibility of Denmark. In 1973 the Islands did not join Denmark in the EU.
The Jardfeingi (Earth and Energy Directorate) is responsible for exploration and production activities. This involves communication with companies and with Faroese institutions, especially the Ministry of Petroleum.
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