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Norway To Auction Record Number Of Arctic Oil Exploration Blocks

Norway’s Ministry of Petroleum and Energy said on Wednesday that it was offering a total of 102 blocks up for exploration in the 24th licensing round on the Norwegian Continental Shelf—a record number of blocks in the area—despite environmentalists’ concern over drilling in the Arctic.

Out of the 102 blocks, 9 blocks are in the Norwegian Sea, and 93 in the Barents Sea. Norway aims to award new production licenses in the first half of 2018, with the application deadline for companies set for November 30, 2017, the petroleum ministry said.

In March this year, Norway’s government announced initial plans to open a record number of oil exploration blocks in the Barents Sea, sparking renewed criticism from environmental groups. A considerable number of the blocks proposed in the Barents Sea are located north of the northernmost oil discovery in Norway. Back then, the government said that it would announce the final blocks in the second quarter this year after a public consultation with local communities, environmental groups, and regulators.

The proposal for the 102 blocks was based on nomination from the companies and evaluation by the government authorities. The proposal was sent for public consultation on March 13, with a May 2 deadline. In total, 36 submissions were received, the petroleum ministry said today.

New exploration acreage promotes long-term activity, value creation and profitable employment in the petroleum industry across the country,” Petroleum Minister Terje Søviknes said in the statement.

Related: Who Controls The Oil As Kurdish Independence Looms?

Environmentalists were not happy with the announcement, and Truls Gulowsen, head of Greenpeace Norway, told Reuters:

“This is an attack on the environment. It’s a confirmation that the Norwegian government doesn’t take their own climate commitments from Paris seriously.”

Greenpeace is suing Norway over the previous, 23rd, licensing round, for oil companies to drill in the Arctic Barents Sea. The plaintiffs—Nature and Youth and Greenpeace Nordic—argue “that Norway thereby violates the Paris Agreement and the people’s constitutional right to a healthy and safe environment for future generations”.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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