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    Norway Opens 25th Licensing Round


The main focus of the round is the frontier Barents Sea.

by: Joe Murphy

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Norway Opens 25th Licensing Round

Norway has called for bids in the country's 25th offshore licensing round, covering 136 blocks in nine frontier zones, including eight in the Barents Sea and one in the Norwegian Sea, its petroleum ministry said on November 19.

The deadline for applications is February 23 2021, and awards are expected the next month.

"New discoveries are necessary to ensure continued activity, ripple effects, employment and governmental revenues throughout the country," the petroleum ministry said.

Norway's numbered licensing rounds take place on an irregular basis and offer blocks in areas that are less explored, where investment is riskier but may yield greater discoveries. The country also holds Awards in Predefined Areas (APA) rounds, which offer acreage in already well-developed areas. The petroleum ministry announced receiving applications from 33 companies in the latest APA round in September.

The Barents sea has been the main focus of numbered rounds in recent years. But despite efforts by the government, development in the region has largely failed to live up to the initial hype. It has been over 35 years since the first Barents sea discovery, the Equinor-operated Snohvit gas field, was discovered. But Snohvit and the Eni-led Goliat oilfield are still the only projects to have entered production. The UK's Spirit Energy, Equinor and Sweden's Lundin Petroleum have all reported dry wells in the Barents sea this year.

The latest numbered round comes as exploratory drilling off Norway is expected to fall to a 14-year low this year, according to a recent report by the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate.  This is despite Norway's tax regime being supportive of continued drilling, even during downturns.