Fight for the Top of the World

At the end of August, a wisp of flame suddenly appeared in the Arctic twilight over the Barents Sea, bathing the low clouds over the Norwegian port of Hammerfest in a spectral orange glow. With a tremendous roar, the flame bloomed over the windswept ocean and craggy gray rocks, competing for an instant with the Arctic summer’s never-setting sun. The first flare-off of natural gas from the Snohvit gas field, some 90 miles offshore, was a beacon of promise: After 25 years of false starts, planning and construction, the first Arctic industrial oil-and-gas operation outside of Alaska was up and running.