OSLO, Norway – The Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy has made available 57 blocks and part-blocks under Norway’s 23rd licensing round.
These comprise 34 blocks in the newly opened southeastern Barents Sea (the formerly disputed area toward Russia), 20 blocks in other parts of the Barents Sea, and three blocks in the Norwegian Sea.
Forty oil companies had nominated a total of 160 blocks/part-blocks by last week’s deadline.
“The interest in exploration in the Barents Sea has increased significantly following the exciting discoveries in recent years: 7324/8-1 (Wisting), 7120/3-1 (Gohta) and 7220/11-1 (Alta),” said Sissel Eriksen, exploration director at the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD).
“By initiating petroleum activity in the southeastern Barents Sea we reach yet another milestone for Norwegian petroleum activities,” said Tord Lien, the Minister of Petroleum and Energy.
“For the first time since 1994, we will explore an entirely new area on the Norwegian shelf. This will generate unique possibilities for value creation, growth and employment opportunities, particularly for northern Norway.”
However, the Ministry has imposed time restrictions for exploration drilling on the blocks on offer to safeguard environmental assets along the actual/observed ice edge (where the ice is located at any given time).
“The framework ensures that no petroleum activities can start along the ice edge during this parliamentary term,” Lien said.
In addition, newer sea ice data shows that the ice edge, as defined in the integrated management plan for the Lofoten-Barents Sea, runs north of the southeastern Barents Sea.
This spring the government will submit a report to the parliament (Storting) with an updated calculation of the ice edge, conducted by the Norwegian Polar Institute.
In addition, the Ministry commissioned the NPD to prepare a technical assessment related to the potential significance of sea ice/sea ice data for responsible petroleum activities. The assessment will include both the physical occurrence of potential sea ice in an area and the significance of historical ice data.