Norway awards 33 oil firms a record number of exploration blocks

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(Reuters) Norway awarded 33 oil companies a record 83 blocks to explore for petroleum resources in mature areas of the Norwegian continental shelf, the country’s oil and energy minister said on Jan. 15.

A total of 38 oil companies had submitted bids for acreage offshore Norway in the so-called predefined areas licensing round by last September’s application deadline.

“This is the largest licensing award on the Norwegian continental shelf. Fifty-three years after the first licensing round, this new record confirms the industry’s belief in continued value creation and activity in Norway,” Norway’s Oil and Energy Minister Kjell-Boerge Freiberg said.

Western Europe’s largest oil producer is expected to see its oil output decline this year to its lowest level in three decades.

The government handed out 37 licenses in the North Sea, 32 in the Norwegian Sea and 14 in the Barents Sea in areas near the existing discoveries.

Norway’s majority state-owned oil and gas firm Equinor (NYSE: EQNR) was awarded stakes in 29 licenses (13 operatorships), Aker BP in 21 licenses (11 operatorships), and Lundin Petroleum in 15 licenses (9 operatorships).

The other companies which received stakes include oil majors Total (NYSE: TOT), Shell (NYSE: RDS.A) and ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP), as well as Eni’s (NYSE: E) Norwegian subsidiary Vaar Energy.

Altogether, 21 oil firms received operatorships.

When announcing the round last May, the government expanded the pre-defined areas near the existing discoveries by a total of 103 blocks.

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