Norway to expand licensing round for oil & gas exploration in predefined areas

Norway’s licensing round for oil & gas exploration in predefined areas to offer more offshore acreage

Norway’s Ministry of Petroleum and Energy has sent a proposal for the announcement of the APA 2023 round, encompassing the predefined areas off Norway, which includes additional blocks in the Norwegian Sea and the Barents Sea.

Illustration. Source: Equinor

The proposal to announce APA 2023 was sent for public consultation on Tuesday, 24 January 2023 and the deadline for the consultation expires on 7 March 2023.

Thanks to this proposal, additional areas in the Norwegian Sea and the Barents Sea will be included in the APA 2023 round, which the Norwegian ministry will carry out in line with the regular timetable. This means an announcement with an application deadline in the third quarter of 2023 and an award in January 2024.

Terje Aasland, Norway’s Minister of Petroleum and Energy, remarked: “We constantly need new discoveries to further develop the Norwegian continental shelf. Today, I have, therefore, started the annual licensing round where I offer exploration areas to oil companies. The proposal for a tender that has been sent out for consultation includes adding 92 blocks in the north to the APA round. Facilitating new discoveries in the north is important both for Europe, the country and the region.”

The Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy highlights that exploration activity has been present for several decades in the majority of open, accessible exploration areas on the Norwegian continental shelf and the best-known areas are covered by the APA rounds. In line with this, the APA rounds currently cover most of the North Sea, the Norwegian Sea and a large part of the southern Barents Sea.

“We must continue the responsible and long-term management of the oil and gas resources. Continuing the annual concession rounds is a key element in this and a pillar of our petroleum policy,” underscored Aasland.

During the hearing, input is only requested on whether new, significant information has come to light in the time since the Storting dealt with the decision to carry out petroleum activity in open, accessible acreage in the summer of 2020.

As the expected size of discoveries decreases, the search is now largely ongoing for smaller discoveries that cannot justify an independent development, but which can be profitable when seen in conjunction with other discoveries and/or can utilise the existing or planned infrastructure. Therefore, timely exploration of these areas is important, according to the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy.

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The Norwegian Oil and Gas Association expressed its approval of expanding the APA 2023 round: “Annual allocation through APA is now particularly important after SV won approval to postpone the 26th round of concessions until this parliamentary term. Near-field exploration will help to extend the life of fields that are already in production.”

Regarding APA 2022, the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy disclosed this month that it had offered production licenses to 25 companies for further exploration activity on the Norwegian continental shelf.

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Out of the 47 production licenses which were offered to these companies, 29 are in the North Sea, 16 in the Norwegian Sea and 2 in the Barents Sea. Moreover, 20 of these production licenses are additional acreage for existing production licenses.