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Norway plans to include more Barents Sea, Norwegian Sea blocks in new APA round


Facilitating new northern discoveries key: minister

92 blocks to be added in Barents Sea, Norwegian Sea

New mature area license awards set for January 2024

  • Author
  • Stuart Elliott
  • Editor
  • Ribhu Ranjan
  • Commodity
  • Natural Gas Oil

Norway plans to offer significantly more oil and gas blocks in the Barents Sea and Norwegian Sea in the country's next licensing round for mature areas on the Norwegian Continental Shelf, the energy ministry said Jan. 24.

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Expanding activity in the north is key to the further development of the Norwegian offshore, the ministry said as it announced the public consultation for the Awards in Predefined Areas (APA) 2023 round.

"We constantly need new discoveries to further develop the Norwegian Continental Shelf," energy minister Terje Aasland said.

Aasland said the proposal for the new round includes 92 more northerly blocks, comprising 78 blocks in the Barents Sea and 14 blocks in the Norwegian Sea.

"Facilitating new discoveries in the north is important both for Europe, the country and the region," Aasland said.

Norway is now the single biggest supply source of gas to the European market after Russian deliveries were sharply curtailed through 2022.

Norwegian operators last year pledged to do as much as they could to boost gas deliveries to Europe to help with supply security and were also incentivized to maximize exports given record high prices in Europe.

Platts, part of S&P Global Commodity Insights, assessed the benchmark Dutch TTF month-ahead price at an all-time high of Eur319.98/MWh on Aug. 26.

Prices have weakened since on the back of healthy storage and demand curtailments, with Platts assessing the TTF month-ahead price on Jan. 23 at Eur63.35/MWh.

Norway's APA 2023 round will have an application deadline in the third quarter of 2023 with awards expected in January 2024.

The APA area covers 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," Aasland said.

Companies are encouraged to explore for smaller discoveries that cannot justify an independent development, but which can be profitable when seen in conjunction with other discoveries or which can utilize existing or planned infrastructure.

"Timely exploration of these areas is therefore important," the ministry said.

Previous round

Norway on Jan. 10, 2023, awarded 47 production licenses to 25 companies in the country's APA 2022 round, with state-controlled Equinor the biggest winner with stakes in 26 new license areas including 18 as operator.

Of the 47 licenses awarded, 29 were in the North Sea, 16 in the Norwegian Sea and two in the Barents Sea, while 20 of the licenses were for additional acreage for existing production licenses.

As well as Equinor's awarded operatorships for 18 licenses, other companies given licenses with operatorship included Aker BP (nine), Var Energi (five), Wintershall Dea (three), Wellesley (three), OKEA (two), OMV (two) and one each for ConocoPhillips, DNO, Harbour Energy, Neptune Energy and Petrolia NOCO.

The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) on Jan. 9 said investments in new upstream projects would be key to maintaining stable production on the Norwegian Continental Shelf.

It said gas production was forecast to reach a new peak of 122.5 Bcm in 2025 and remain high to 2027.

The NPD said it received 13 plans for new developments in 2022 and several plans for projects aimed at increasing recovery near existing fields or extending field lifetimes.

A total of 32 exploration wells were completed in 2022 and resulted in 11 discoveries.

The NPD said it saw good potential in the Barents Sea for "significant" undiscovered gas resources, with the recent Lupa gas discovery a positive signal for future activity.

Var Energi announced the Lupa find in December, saying it was the largest discovery of the year on the Norwegian Continental Shelf with recoverable resources estimated at 9-21 Bcm of gas.