Norway’s latest offshore oil and gas exploration licensing round attracted bids from 25 companies, including Shell , ConocoPhillips, Aker, BP and Equinor, the energy ministry said on Tuesday.
Norway’s annual award of new offshore acreage for drilling is central to the country’s strategy of extending oil and gas production for decades to come, a policy that is fiercely opposed by environmental groups.
“Without exploration and new discoveries, we will neither be able to maintain production of oil and gas over time, nor further develop the petroleum sector and all jobs in the industry,” Terje Aasland, the oil and energy minister, said in a statement.
In May, the energy ministry offered 92 new blocks to search for oil and gas in the Norwegian and the Barents Seas, in the so-called pre-defined areas (APA) exploration round.
The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, in a separate statement, said almost all companies active on the Norwegian Continental Shelf had submitted bids, with increased interest in the Barents Sea. It did not say how many blocks companies had bid for.
Norway in January awarded 47 new permits to a total of 25 companies, concluding its 2022 licensing round.
Oil and gas companies can also apply for blocks offered in the previous APA rounds that have not been awarded, including in the North Sea.
Vaar Energi, majority owned by Eni, was also among the bidders in the round, as were DNO, OMV, Okea and Wintershall Dea.
The oil and energy ministry said it plans to announce the winners of new acreage in early 2024.