Norway's Minister of Petroleum and Energy Tord Lien
The Ministry of Petroleum and Energy is today announcing the 23rd licensing round. The round consists of 57 blocks, or parts of blocks. These are distributed with 34 blocks in the south-eastern Barents Sea (the formerly disputed area towards Russia), 20 blocks in other parts of the Barents Sea and three blocks in the Norwegian Sea. The government aims to award new production licences in the first half of 2016.
“By initiating petroleum activity in the south-eastern Barents Sea we reach yet another milestone for Norwegian petroleum activities. For the first time since 1994, we will explore an entirely new area on the Norwegian Shelf. This will generate unique possibilities for value creation, growth and employment opportunities, particularly for Northern Norway,” says Minister of Petroleum and Energy Tord Lien (Progress Party).
New and attractive exploration acreage is important to the long-term value creation from the Norwegian shelf and for the activity in the supplier industry over time, and thus the sector’s significance for the welfare society. This is why the government prioritises maintaining a predictable and high level in awarding new areas. This is particularly important with the current challenging situation in the industry.
Petroleum activities in Norway are subject to stringent health, safety and environment requirements, as well as requirements to safeguard the external environment. Significant emphasis is placed on ensuring sound co-existence with other industries. This also forms the basis for the 23rd licensing round, which includes time restrictions for exploration drilling to safeguard the consideration for important environmental assets along the actual/observed ice edge (where the ice is located at any given time).
“The environmental assets are being safeguarded with the framework that is in place for new production licences in the Barents Sea. The framework ensures that no petroleum activities can start along the ice edge during this parliamentary term,” says Minister Lien.
In addition, newer sea ice data shows that the ice edge, as defined in the integrated management plan for Lofoten-Barents Sea, runs north of the south-eastern Barents Sea. The ice edge in the integrated management plan’s map was prepared by the cross-sectoral expert group that established the technical foundation for the integrated management plan for the Barents Sea. The group was headed by the Norwegian Polar Institute.
The cooperation-agreement between the Conservative Party, the Progress Party, the Christian Democratic Party and the Liberal Party (Venstre) states that no petroleum activity shall be carried out near the ice edge during this parliamentary term. In understanding with the cooperating parties, the government will submit a report to the Storting with an updated calculation of the ice edge in the spring of 2015. The Norwegian Polar Institute carried out an updated calculation of the ice edge on behalf of the government in order to update the integrated management plan with new ice data.
The 23rd licensing round includes requirements relating to the distance to the actual/observed ice edge, so the environmental assets along the ice edge are safeguarded. The companies must in any case relate to the actual conditions in an area so they can carry out responsible petroleum activities. This also applies to sea ice issues. To create an even better knowledge basis, the Ministry assigned the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate with the task of preparing a technical assessment related to which significance sea ice/sea ice data have for the possibility of carrying out responsible petroleum activities. The assessment will include both the physical occurrence of potential sea ice in an area and the significance of historical ice data.
The government will submit a report to the Storting to revise the integrated management plan for Lofoten-Barents Sea in 2020. The work on the technical basis for such a report will start in a cross-sectoral expert group, including the Norwegian Polar Institute, in the current parliamentary term.
In August 2013, the Ministry invited the companies to nominate blocks they wanted to have included in the 23rd licensing round. Forty companies nominated a total of 160 blocks. Based on the nominations and the authorities’ own assessments, a proposal to announce a total of 61 blocks, or parts of blocks was prepared. The proposal was submitted for public consultation on 14 February 2014, with a deadline for comments on 4 April 2014. More than 40 consultation bodies submitted statements. No new, significant information emerged during the consultation round.
Four of the blocks on public consultation were not included in the announcement. The Ministry submitted a proposal for consultation today to include these in this year’s round of the annual licensing round in the most familiar parts of the Norwegian shelf – APA 2015. This will allow for more rapid exploration of these blocks in the Norwegian Sea, as award of new production licences under APA 2015 is planned before awards in the 23rd licensing round.
The application deadline for the 23rd licensing round is 2 December 2015 at 1200 hours. The government aims to award new production licences in the first half of 2016.
The following blocks or parts of blocks are announced in the 23rd licensing round: