Awarding new licenses through the Awards in Predefined Areas is a pillar in the continued development of the Norwegian shelf. To see such great interest in further exploration activity is very encouraging. This is important for both employment and value creation, as well as for facilitating Norway's role as a stable energy supplier to Europe, says Minister of Energy, Terje Aasland.
Awards in Predefined Areas (APA) is an annual exploration round for the most mature areas of the Norwegian continental shelf. Of the 62 production licenses offered in APA 2023, 29 are located in the North Sea, 25 in the Norwegian Sea, and eight in the Barents Sea.
In total, 24 oil companies are offered parts in one or more of these licenses. 16 companies are offered one or more operatorships. A binding work program is linked to all the licenses.
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, says Minister Aasland.
Before licenses can be awarded for petroleum activities in an area on the Norwegian continental shelf, the area must be opened for petroleum operations. Production licenses can only be awarded in areas that are open and available for petroleum activities.
A production license gives the exclusive right to exploration, drilling, and extraction of petroleum within the geographical area of the license. Licenses are normally awarded through licensing rounds. The Ministry of Energy announces certain geographical areas where companies can apply for production licenses.
On the basis of the applications received, a production license is awarded a group of companies on the basis of objective, non-discriminatory and pre-announced criteria. The Ministry designates one operator for each production license.
The annual APA licensing rounds were introduced in 2003. The aim was to facilitate the discovery and extraction of profitable resources in mature areas, before existing infrastructure is shut down. The APA rounds occur annually and within a predefined area. This provides predictability to the companies about the areas available for application in the APA round, and facilitates regular replenishment of new exploration area to the companies. This is important for achieving effective exploration. Over time, the APA area is expanded, based on professional assessments of the areas' maturity, and especially the need for gradual exploration and utilization of time-critical resources. Today, the APA area covers most of the opened, available exploration areas on the Norwegian continental shelf.
The announcement of APA 2023, including the expansion of the APA area, was sent for public consultation with a deadline of 7 March 2023. The licensing round was announced 10 May, with an application deadline 23 August. By the deadline, the Ministry had received applications from 25 companies.
After the application deadline, the applications have been processed, resulting in the awards listed below.
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