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Norway Takes Oil Bids For Barents Sea Frontier

Date: 16-Nov-05
Country: NORWAY
Author: John Acher

Companies resumed drilling in the Norwegian sector of the Barents Sea in early 2005 for the first time since 2001, after the previous government ended a moratorium on petroleum activity in the Arctic against protests by environmental groups.

A left-of-centre coalition took power in October after ousting a centre-right government in September elections.

"I am very pleased with the interest the companies are demonstrating for new exploration opportunities in the Barents Sea and the Norwegian Sea," Oil and Energy Minister Odd Roger Enoksen said in a statement.

"With this amount of applications, it is clear that the competition for acreage is increasing also in frontier parts of the shelf," Enoksen said.

The applications laid a good foundation for comprehensive exploration of frontier parts of the Norwegian continental shelf, he added.

The round also showed that the Norwegian Sea continued to attract many applicants even though that part of the shelf had been included in several comprehensive rounds lately.

The number of applicants in the 19th round was up from 18 in the previous round in 2004 and from 13 in the 17th round, the oil and energy ministry said after the noon (1100 GMT) deadline for filing.

The applicants included Norway's Statoil and Norsk Hydro, international majors such as ConocoPhillips, ChevronTexaco, France's Total and Royal Dutch/Shell, independents like US Marathon and minnows like Sweden's Lundin.

The other applicants were: Amerada Hess, Britain's BG, Norwegian DNO, Discover Petroleum AS, Denmark's DONG, Italy's ENI, Faroe Petroleum plc, Gaz de France, Japan's Idemitsu, Norwegian Energy Company AS (NORECO), Premier Oil, Norwegian Revus Energy, Germany's RWE Dea, Svenska Petroleum Exploration, Canadian Talisman and German Wintershall.

The companies bid individually and in groups.

Norway had offered 30 blocks in the Barents Sea and 34 in the Norwegian Sea. Licences will be awarded towards the end of the first quarter of 2006.

Statoil and Norsk Hydro said they filed extensive applications for acreage, but did not disclose how many licences they sought or in which parts of the shelf -- in line with standard practice.

"It is positive that the new government has decided to stick to the original schedule for the 19th round," Norsk Hydro said in a statement.

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