Norwegian APA interest remains strong, but lowest in years
Norway received bids from 26 interested parties for acreage in this year's Awards in Predefined Areas (APA), with this year's batch covering 28 licencing blocks across mature parts of the Norwegian continental shelf and the Barents Sea.
National offshore authority Norwegian Petroleum Directorate announced the bids September 13 following the previous day's deadline. The NPD will reveal the successful bids in early 2023.
Production licences will be awarded based on the bidder's technical expertise, experience, finances and geological understanding, along with early strategies for impactful exploration.
The bidder tally this year is the lowest since at least 2013. Last year's round attracted 31 bids, 28 of which were successful.
The results of this bid round are in stark contrast to 10 years ago, when 48 new blocks were added to the APA exploration register in the 2012 round. At that time, the Barents Sea accounted for 33 new licence areas, as the NPD sought to lure E&P firms scoping the Arctic in the wake of a firm agreement on the Norway-Russia maritime boundary in 2010.
This time round, it was the Barents rim with the Arctic that courted the most controversy. APA 2022 again sought to expand the predefined licences available for Barents Sea bidders. But the NPD was forced to withdraw three Arctic oil exploration blocks in June, thanks to a budget compromise hastily conceded by the government to Norway's hard-left opposition Socialist Left.
Norwegian Oil and Gas said in June it was "disappointed" with that decision. Coming as it did against the backdrop of Europe's energy crunch, the licence cancellations cast a negative spotlight on the political tensions surrounding exploration activity.
Nevertheless, NPD licence management director Kalmar Illdstad was pleased with APA 2022's numbers. He says there was a "considerable" appetite among explorers, a demonstration of Norwegian offshore's continued appeal. Illdstad added: "It is gratifying to note the continuing significant interest in investigating new exploration acreage, given the many awards made in the most recent APA processes."