29 August 2013, News Wires – The Norwegian government has fired the starting gun on the keenly awaited opening of new prospective acreage in the south-east Barents Sea by calling for block nominations from industry players for the country’s next licensing round.
The planned 23rd round is set to open up for exploration a 44,000 square-kilometre Arctic area formerly disputed with Russia that is estimated to hold about 1.9 billion barrels of oil equivalent, mostly gas.
It will mark the first time since 1994 that the country opens up a new area of its continental shelf.
Major players including Statoil, BP, ConocoPhillips, Shell and Total, as well as independents such as Lundin Petroleum and Tullow Oil, have recently flagged their interest in the area by snapping up seismic packages priced at Nkr12 million ($2 million) apiece from the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate.
In calling for block nominations on Wednesday, the Petroleum & Energy Ministry said players could also propose a limited number of tracts outside the south-east Barents, as well as in the North and Norwegian seas.
Petroleum & Energy Minister Ola Borten Moe said exploration work resulting from recent block awards in the Barents under the previous round would provide more geological data about the area.
He said there would be a “step-wise approach” to the opening of new areas, while calling on oil companies to carry out further seismic surveys to enhance the industry’s understanding of the Barents play.
The deadline for block nominations for the round is 14 January 2014, though the ministry said the typical two-year schedule for the licensing process could be stalled due to the need for gather more seismic data.