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Norway proposes record number of Barents oil exploration blocks

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Staff Writer | March 14, 2017
Norway announced preliminary plans to nominate a record number of blocks for oil and gas exploration in the Barents Sea, drawing criticism from environmentalists.
Norway oil field
Oil exploration   Oil companies are restarting their search
Oil majors are restarting their search for giant offshore fields in the region after a two-year lull as recent stability in oil prices revives appetite for exploration.

The Oil and Energy Ministry said it had proposed 102 blocks for Norway's 24th oil and gas licensing round, of which 93 are in the Barents Sea, in the Arctic, and nine in the Norwegian Sea.

"This is the biggest number of blocks proposed in the Barents Sea ever, but it can change when the final announcement is made," a ministry spokesman said.

More than half of the blocks proposed in the Barents Sea are north of Wisting, the northernmost oil discovery made in Norway so far.

The ministry plans to make a final announcement in the second quarter after public consultations during which environmentalists, regulators, local communities and others can express their views.

Unlike many major producers, Norway does not sell licences but awards them to the best applicants and refunds 78 percent of drilling costs.

It also allows firms to write off much of their development costs and recoups tax money once fields go into production.