Of the 75 licenses granted, 45 are in the North Sea, 22 in the Norwegian Sea and eight in the Barents Sea.
This is the highest number of licenses ever granted by Norway under the annual predefined areas (APA) licensing round.
Launched in 2003, APA licensing round is intended to boost exploration and development of discoveries near those existing fields with infrastructure facilities.
Norway Energy Minister Terje Soeviknes was quoted by Reuters as saying: “The number of licences is the highest ever awarded in a licensing round on the Norwegian Continental Shelf.
“Access to new, prospective exploration acreage is a central pillar in the government’s petroleum policy.”
A total of 34 firms have secured the 75 licenses and of these, 19 firms have won the right to lead projects.
Environmentalists have been critical of the exploration rights in Barents Sea through APA rounds. They claim that shifting into a significantly unexplored area with just two fields defeats the actual purpose of the APA rounds – which is to boost production.
A total of 39 companies applied for the exploration licenses this year, which is an increase from 33 in 2017, when 56 exploration licenses were granted.
This year, Statoil topped the list with 31 licenses, followed by Aker BP with 23. Statoil will be the lead operator in 17 blocks while Aker BP in 14 areas.
Total, Shell, Lundin Petroleum also secured areas in the latest round.