Norway to offer 93 blocks for oil exploration in Barents Sea
The Norwegian government has announced plans to offer a record number of oil exploration blocks in the Barents Sea for the 24th licensing round.
The Oil and Energy Ministry has proposed a total of 102 blocks for the oil and gas licensing round including 93 in the Barents Sea, in the Arctic, and nine in the Norwegian Sea.
A ministry spokesman was reported by Reuters as saying: "This is the biggest number of blocks proposed in the Barents Sea ever, but it can change when the final announcement is made.”
The ministry plans to make a final announcement in the second quarter after public consultations.
However, the move has drawn criticism from environmentalists, including Norwegian environmental group Bellona.
Bellona head Frederic Hauge said: "It's as if the environment isn't an issue for the government. This is on a collision course with the Paris Agreement (on climate change), the EU parliament and all Norwegian environmental management.”
According to the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate estimates, the Barents Sea has all of the undiscovered oil and gas resources on the Norwegian continental shelf.
The ministry is planning to make a final announcement on the exploration blocks offered before June 2017 while the oil companies will be allowed to submit their proposals till the end of December.
In August 2016, Norway announced the 24th licensing round for new exploration areas following which it received proposals from 22 oil companies by the end of November.
Image: The Barents Sea is estimated to contain all of the undiscovered oil and gas resources on the Norwegian continental shelf. Photo: courtesy of num_skyman/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net.