Exploration history and licensing policy

The Storting decides, on the basis of proposals from the government, whether new areas are to be opened to petroleum operations. Opening areas north of 62°N was first discussed in Report no 76 to the Storting (1970-71).

Three years later, Report no 81 to the Storting (1974-75) presented a strategy for putting the first blocks above 62°N on offer. The question of initiating petroleum exploration in these waters was discussed by a number of reports to the Storting during subsequent years. Reports no 91 (1975-76), no 57 (1978-79) and no 46 (1979-80) were devoted in their entirety to this issue.

The first blocks above 62°N were put on offer in the fifth licensing round of June 1979, encompassing six on the Halten Bank and 20 on the Tromsø Patch (Troms I). After the initial awards had been made in 1980, the first well was spudded in the same year.

A number of blocks were awarded in these northern waters during 1980-85. The results from the first two drilling seasons, in 1980 and 1981, indicated the possibility of making commercial discoveries on the NCS off mid and northern Norway.

Ever since 1969, the authorities have been collecting seismic data within the evaluated areas as part of a general surveying of the NCS. Results from these official seismic surveys have formed the basis for discussion every time the opening of new areas has been under consideration. This knowledge has also been important for the strategy of step-by-step exploration, which involves basing each well in newly opened areas on the lessons learnt from its predecessor.

The Continental Shelf Institute (IKU) conducted scientific drilling during the 1990s in such areas as Nordland VI and VII (see figure 1). Drilled to a depth of 200 metres, such wells are important for seismic surveying because they provide information about the composition and age of the rocks.

When the Storting considered report no 29 (1993-94), special terms were imposed for the central part of Nordland VI. Permission was granted to drill a limited number of exploration wells in this area before the issue of opening more of the area was possibly reconsidered by the Storting.

Two production licences were awarded in 1996, 3D seismic data were gathered, and an exploration well was drilled in 2000. This proved to be dry. Nothing has been done in these two licences since 2001, when the government halted activities across the whole of Nordland VI and the open areas of the Barents Sea in anticipation of the impact assessment for year-round petroleum operations in the Lofoten-Barents area (ULB).

The integrated management plan for the marine environment in the Barents Sea and the sea areas off Lofoten was presented in report no 8 to the Storting (2005-06) on 31 March 2006. This plan established the framework for petroleum activities in the southern Barents Sea and the Nordland VI/VII, Troms II and Egga Edge areas. When it was presented, the government decided that its content would be updated regularly on a rolling basis. The framework for petroleum operations in the management plan area is to be reassessed on the basis of available knowledge and reports drawn up by directorate groups responsible for technical follow-up of the management plan. The first update was scheduled for 2010.

 Figure 2. Status of areas on the NCS.

Figure 2. Status of areas on the NCS.

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