OSLO, Dec 5 (Reuters) – Some 11 oil firms applied for stakes in exploration blocks off Norway in its 24th oil and gas licensing round, down from 26 companies that sought drilling permits in the previous round in 2015, the country’s energy authorities said on Tuesday.

The latest round, which has a record number of blocks on offer in the Arctic Barents Sea, is expected to be concluded when the energy ministry makes final awards before the summer of 2018, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate said in a statement.

Companies seeking to gain new acreage for oil and gas exploration off Norway include Statoil, Aker BP , Lundin Petroleum, Shell, OMV and Centrica.

DEA, Wintershall, Idemitsu, KUFPEC and RN Nordic Oil were also on the list of applicants.

The government has offered a total of 102 exploration blocks, consisting of 93 blocks in the Barents Sea and nine in the Norwegian Sea, although it is expected to narrow this down based on the interest expressed by oil firms.

While authorities believe the Barents Sea contains most of Norway’s undiscovered oil and gas resources, environmental groups argue that exploration in Norway’s northernmost region should be banned.

Greenpeace and others recently launched a lawsuit, claiming the already completed twenty-third round was unconstitutional, and a verdict in the case is expected in early 2018. The government has rejected the claims.

(Reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis and Henrik Stolen, writing by Terje Solsvik)





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