2. Brief description of regulations and routines for survey activities


A seismic survey for petroleum exploration is a petroleum activity. It constitutes a necessary part of the subsequent activities performed to discover and produce petroleum. One of the objectives of the regulations is to ensure that the activities take place with due consideration for other activities such as fishing and shipping. Among other measures, this is ensured by reporting the activity five weeks before it is due to start. Furthermore, obtaining feedback from the authorities forms an integral element of the reporting system, thus ensuring that it is possible to adapt the survey activities to other activities.


Summary of relevant regulations

The following laws and regulations apply to petroleum exploration:

  • Act of 29 November 1996, No. 72 relating to petroleum activities (the Petroleum Act), Chapter 2 Exploration Licence and Chapter 3, Production Licence, etc.
  • Regulations to the Act relating to petroleum activities of 27 June 1997, No. 653 (the Petroleum Regulations), Chapter 2.
  • Regulations relating to resource management in the petroleum activities of 18 June 2001 (the Resource Management Regulations), Chapter 2.

Copies of the relevant regulations has been enclosed as appendices to the manual.

Amendments have been made to the Petroleum Act and the Regulations to the Act relating to petroleum activities. The amendments entered into force on 1 July 2009 and relate to exploration vessels engaged in petroleum activities having to keep equipment for electronic positioning reporting on board.


Petroleum exploration

Exploration for petroleum on the Norwegian Continental Shelf shall take place in accordance with an exploration licence or within a production licence, cf. Sections 2-1 and 3-3 of the Petroleum Act. An exploration licence is normally granted for one year at a time. A production licence is granted for up to ten years (initial period) and may subsequently be extended.

Exploration within the scope of the Petroleum Act may include geological, petrophysical, geophysical, geochemical and geotechnical activities, including shallow drilling, as well as operation and use of a facility to the extent it is used for the purpose of exploration. (Section 1-6, litera e of the Petroleum Act). Thus, seismic data acquisition is one of several types of activities covered by the term exploration.

An exploration licence grants a licensee the right to explore for petroleum in all areas open for petroleum activities. It does not give the licensee exclusive rights to explore the areas covered by the licence, nor does it give the licensee any preferential rights in the award of production licences.

The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate has been delegated authority to award exploration licences. The licence contains standard terms and conditions for the exploration activities. Individual terms and conditions may also be stipulated in addition to the standard terms.

A production licence is awarded by the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy and generally gives the licensee an exclusive right to acquire seismic data within the area covered by the production licence.


Notification of seismic survey

Before a seismic survey is initiated, the licensees must submit a notification about their plans for seismic data acquisition to the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, the Directorate of Fisheries, the Institute of Marine Research and the Ministry of Defence. The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate will receive feedback from the other institutions consisting of technical advice, in part based on the expected military activities, fishing activities or spawning periods in relation to the respective survey.

Based on the consultation submissions, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate will make a recommendation to the licensee. Normally, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate will recommend that the licensee follows the recommendations made by the other consultation bodies.

In its recommendation, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate may lay down assumptions for how the Directorate expects the survey to be conducted. In most cases, this will relate to fishing activities that are already taking place or that will commence during the data acquisition. The objective is to avoid conflict situations. The licensee will also be informed of the general priority given to ongoing fishing activities.

After the procedure has been completed, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate announces the planned activity, stating the area involved and the expected time intervals.


Other activities that may comprise seismic surveys

Acquisition of seismic data may also be conducted in accordance with other legal provisions:

  • Scientific exploration licence (Act relating to scientific research, etc.) 
  • Track surveys and other subsurface surveys (drill site surveys), cf. Section 30 of the Regulations to the Act relating to petroleum activities and Section 7 of the Resource Management Regulations.
  • Data acquisition carried out directly under the direction of the authorities.

The Norwegian Coast Guard serves as a point of contact for seismic testing activities that do not relate to a specific survey.

Topics: Seismic