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Oil and gas companies operating offshore Norway have set their sights on exploring for natural gas in the Arctic Barents Sea, eager to unlock new supply in light of the strong European demand for non-Russian gas.
Over the next three years, some of the largest firms operating on the Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS) are set to ramp up their exploration efforts in the Barents Sea, executives at Equinor, Aker BP, and Vår Energi told Reuters after the latest Norwegian license awards were announced this week.
On Tuesday, the Norwegian Ministry of Energy offered 62 new production licenses in the latest licensing round for the most mature areas of the shelf. The number of awarded licenses was the highest in five years and compared to just 47 licenses awarded last year.
Eight of those licenses are in the Barents Sea, where companies are preparing to explore for more natural gas.
Commenting on the license awards, Norway’s Energy Minister Terje Aasland said,
“Last year, I specifically encouraged companies to explore opportunities in the Barents Sea. This year we are offering more than double the number of production licenses in this region compared to last year's round.”
“This shows that several companies have responded positively to the call, and that they are conscious of their social responsibilities. Proving more gas resources is important for profitability, by increasing the export capacity from this region.”
Equinor, which was awarded a large number of licenses as an operator and a partner, said, via Jez Averty, senior vice president for subsurface, the Norwegian continental shelf,
“We now focus on exploration to uncover the potential for gas in the Barents Sea, working closely with Vår Energi and Aker BP to explore as much as possible with good rig utilization.”
Aker BP’s chief executive, Karl Johnny Hersvik, told Reuters that it would take about seven years to bring any new gas discoveries to the market.
Vår Energi, for its part, is working to “unlock the hydrocarbon potential in the western Barents Sea,” CEO Nick Walker told Reuters.
Oil and gas companies plan to boost exploration activity and spending offshore Norway this year as Western Europe’s top oil and gas producer looks to maintain production and raise exports to the rest of Europe.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.