Norway has handed out nearly 50 oil and gas exploration licences in a “gratifying” display of interest in the sector.
A total of 47 licences were awarded to 25 companies, including Equinor, Aker BP, Var Energi and DNO across the North Sea, Barents and Norwegian Sea.
State-owned Equinor was the largest awardee with 26 licences from the Minister of Petroleum and Energy, 18 as operator and eight as partner.
Equinor took 16 in the North Sea, nine in the Norwegian Sea and one in the Barents as part of the country’s Awards in Predefined Areas (APA) round.
Jez Avery, Equinor’s senior vice president for subsurface in Exploration & Production Norway, said: “Exploration is essential to our ambition to transform the NCS from and oil and gas province to a broad energy province.
“New gas volumes will be key to enabling the development of new value chains for hydrogen for Europe.”
Aker BP is partnered in 17 licences which were awarded and Var Energi is involved in 12.
DNO is involved in 11 licences, ConocoPhillips and Neptune Energy are in two and Harbour Energy is in three.
Petoro, Poland’s PGNiG, Wellesley Petroleum and Japan’s INPEX are among the other awardees.
The awards come as the UK braces for the award of licences in Q2 of this year for the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) 33rd round, which launched in October.
That comes amid calls from a parliamentary committee last week to set an end date for the issue of new licences in the UK.
Norway’s awards were issued by the regulator, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD).
Director of licence management Kalmar Ildstad said: “It’s gratifying to see such diversity in the player landscape, and that the companies are interested in the APAs and the Norwegian shelf.
“A key factor for further value creation on the shelf will be utilising available capacity in existing oil and gas infrastructure. That’s why it’s important that the companies continue active exploration to find resources that are close to this infrastructure.”
Neptune later confirmed the award of a 40% operated stake in PL1180 in the Gjøa area, and a 15% working interest in PL1179 in the Fram area.
The group’s managing director in Norway and the UK, Odin Estensen, said: “Neptune has continued to demonstrate its ability to convert exploration success into development and production in a safe, timely and cost-efficient manner. Through this latest licensing round, we continue to build a sustainable exploration portfolio in our core areas.
Director of subsurface in Norway, Steinar Meland, added: “We are pleased to have been awarded an operatorship in the vicinity of our operated Gjøa area where we hope to build on 2022’s exploration success.”