• Norway proposes large expansion of Arctic oil exploration

    Norway plans to offer up to 136 new oil exploration blocks in a major new licensing round, of which 125 lie in the Arctic Barents Sea, the country’s Ministry of Petroleum and Energy said on Wednesday.

    Norway’s 25th licensing round would open eight new regions of the Barents Sea that have so far been unavailable for exploration, each consisting of a range of blocks, and one region of the Norwegian Sea, the ministry added.

    “A steady supply of new acreage is crucial in order to maintain activity on Norway’s continental shelf,” Minister of Petroleum and Energy Tina Bru said in a statement.

    “We need new discoveries to uphold employment and value creation,” she said.

    Oil firms, which must commit to a certain level of drilling activity, tend to pick fewer blocks than the overall acreage made available by the government, however.

    A hearing on the scope of the licensing round will be held until Aug. 26, after which the number of available permits could be cut, followed by awards some time in the second half of 2021, the ministry said.

    The 25th round had been postponed by a long-running debate over how far north Norway’s oil industry should be allowed to drill, culminating earlier this year in a compromise that left significant room for additional Arctic licenses.

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