Norway's latest offshore licensing round, focusing on the Barents Sea and Norwegian Sea, has drawn fewer than half the number of companies than its previous round attracted.
Just 11 companies have applied for production licenses in the 24th licensing, compared with 26 which applied in the 23rd round, says the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD). Lacklustre drilling results in what was otherwise a record year for the number of exploration wells in the Barents Sea has been blamed in part for the muted interest.
No new acreage was opened in the 24th licensing round, as was the case prior to the 23rd round. At the same time, the predefined area (APA) was expanded earlier this year, and there was substantial interest in APA 2017, with 39 companies delivering a record-breaking number of applications. The applicant landscape could indicate that some parties are prioritising exploration in mature areas this time around, says the NPD.
A total of 102 blocks or parts of blocks were offered in the 24th round. Nine are in the Norwegian Sea and 93 in the Barents Sea.
The 11 companies, which have applied for production licences, either alone or in groups, are:
“The oil companies nominated many areas in this round, and the authorities have listened and responded with an extensive announcement. We have received applications in both the Norwegian Sea and the Barents Sea,” says Torgeir Stordal, exploration director in the NPD. Most applications received are for the Barents Sea, and the companies are particularly interested in the announced acreage in the northwestern part of the region.
“In this round, the announced blocks are mostly in frontier areas. We see that the list of applicants is dominated by large and medium-sized companies with good technical and financial capacity to conduct exploration in such areas.”
The applications will now be evaluated. The Ministry of Petroleum and Energy aims to award new production licences in the 24th licensing round before the summer of 2018.