Norway’s Ministry of Petroleum and Energy has awarded 47 new offshore oil and gas exploration licences to a total of 25 oil companies.

The permits have been awarded as part of the licencing round APA 2022, an annual exploration round to licence in the most mature areas on the Norwegian shelf.

The licences offered in the latest round cover 29 permits across the North Sea, with 16 in the Norwegian Sea and two in the Barents Sea.

Norwegian Minister of Petroleum and Energy Terje Aasland said: “Further exploration activity and new discoveries are important to maintain the production of oil and gas over time, both for Norway and Europe.

“The annual allocation of the exploration area is a pillar in facilitating a stable level of activity on the Norwegian continental shelf and in achieving the main goals of the government’s petroleum policy.

“Today’s area allocation is also an important contribution to ensuring that Norway remains a safe and predictable supplier of oil and gas to Europe.”

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Of these permits, Equinor has received the largest number of production licences, which includes 18 licences as operator and eight as partner.

The company is planning to participate in 25 exploration wells this year.

Equinor Norway subsurface exploration and production senior vice-president Jez Avery said: “Exploration is essential to our ambition to transform the NCS from an oil and gas province to a broad energy province. New gas volumes will be key to enabling the development of new value chains for hydrogen for Europe.”

Some of the other companies that received the production licences in the predefined areas include Aker BP, AS Norske Shell, ConocoPhillips, Harbour, INPEX-Idemitsu, Neptune, OKEA, OMV, PGNiG, TotalEnergies, and Wintershall Dea.