Norway is looking to offer 136 blocks for oil and gas exploration in the licensing round for less explored areas on its shelf, including 125 blocks in the Arctic Barents Sea that are currently not available for drilling, the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy said on Wednesday.
The so-called 25th numbered licensing round – expected to be announced in the fall of 2020 after consultation on the proposed areas for oil drilling – typically includes frontier parts of the Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS).
According to Norway’s oil ministry, it will be the frontier regions that are most likely to host large new discoveries.
The ministry proposes nine frontier areas for exploration, including eight areas in the Barents Sea and one area in the Norwegian Sea. The proposal is now submitted for public consultation, which should be completed by August 26.
Access to new exploration areas is crucial to maintaining activity on the Norwegian continental shelf, Petroleum and Energy Minister Tina Bru said in a statement. Norway needs new discoveries to maintain employment in one of its most important industries and its supply chain, especially after the last few challenging months, the minister added.
Norway is currently reducing its oil production by the end of the year because of the slump in oil prices. But after Johan Sverdrup and the planned Johan Castberg oilfield reach peak production in a couple of years, Norway’s oil production is set for a natural decline after 2023 in the absence of significant discoveries.
According to the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD), Norway has so far produced 48 percent of the recoverable resources on the shelf. This means that more than half are still untapped.
Last week, Norway announced the annual licensing round for oil and gas exploration in mature areas on the shelf, expanding the total acreage up for grabs by 36 blocks west of the Norwegian Sea. The so-called Awards in Predefined Areas (APA) are announced every year and comprise the mature parts with known geology and good infrastructure already in place, allowing tie-backs to existing infrastructure for any new discoveries.