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Norway says latest license awards a 'vote of confidence'

London — Norway has awarded stakes in 69 offshore oil and gas licenses ranging from the Barents Sea to the North Sea to 28 companies, in a license round described by the regulator as a "vote of confidence in the Norwegian shelf."

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While the winners' names were not immediately released, the energy ministry had previously said applications came from 33 companies, including Shell, Total, US upstream company ConocoPhillips, Aker BP, Eni subsidiary Var Energi, state-controlled Equinor and Sweden's Lundin Petroleum. Chevron and ExxonMobil did not apply, having exited Norway in the last two years.

Norway's Awards in Predefined Areas are designed to focus on already-explored and established oil and gas producing areas, usually with good access to pipeline infrastructure, and to encourage companies to test new ideas.

The latest round represented a slight reduction in awards compared to last year. However, the regulator, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, said the results demonstrated companies' "continued interest in the Norwegian Continental Shelf."

"Production licences are being offered both in the Barents Sea and the Norwegian Sea, which will require new seismic data and use of new technology to evaluate the resource potential. It will be exciting to watch how this develops in the coming years," NPD head of exploration Torgeir Stordal said.

Norway saw a high level of exploration activity last year, with 57 wells 'spudded,' but many of the 17 discoveries made were relatively small. The largest, Aker BP's Liatarnet, was a heavy oil find estimated at 80 million-200 million barrels of oil equivalent, while the next-largest find was a gas discovery dubbed Orn, estimated at 50 million boe.

With production replenished recently by the giant Johan Sverdrup oil field, Norway has a number of finds and development projects that should support output into the coming decade, including the second phase of the Johan Sverdrup development, due on stream in 2022, and the Johan Castberg field due on stream the same year.