In its most recent licensing round, the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy (MPE) has awarded 47 new oil and gas exploration permits to 25 firms, including Equinor, DNO ASA, Wintershall Dea AG, OKEA ASA and Neptune Energy.

“Further exploration activity and new discoveries are important to maintain the production of oil and gas over time, both for Norway and Europe,” said Norwegian Minister of Petroleum and Energy Terje Aasland in a Jan. 10 press release.

Terje Aasland, Norway Prime Minister of Petroleum and Energy
Terje Aasland, Norwegian Minister of Petroleum and Energy. (Source: Ministry of Petroleum & Energy)

Last year, Norway became Europe’s largest gas supplier, overtaking Russia after Moscow cut off the majority of its supply. In 2023, Norway’s oil output is projected to rise by 6.9%, while gas volumes are expected to stay the same, according to the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD).

Benefiting from Norway’s projected rise is Equinor, the biggest winner of production licenses in the 2022 Award in Predefined Areas (APA) licensing round that NPD announced Jan. 10. The company was awarded 26 new licenses — 18 as an operator and eight as a partner. In 2023, Equinor plans to participate in 25 exploration wells, mostly around existing infrastructure. Of those, 16 are in the North Sea, nine in the Norwegian Sea and one in the Barents Sea.

“Exploration is essential to our ambition to transform the NCS [Norwegian Continental Shelf] from an oil and gas province to a broad energy province,” Jez Averty, Equinor’s senior vice president of exploration & production, said in a press release. “New gas volumes will be key to enabling the development of new value chains for hydrogen for Europe.”

Among other operators are, DNO was awarded 11 production licenses and OKEA four. DNO will operate one license, while OKEA won two operatorships.

OKEA’s operatorships are in the Norwegian and Northern North Seas, where the company is already exploring.

“These new awards give OKEA a great opportunity to build further on the near-field exploration activities we have around Draugen, Brage, which is a newly acquired asset for OKEA, and the Gjøa area, where we also operate the Aurora discovery,” OKEA vice president of exploration Morten Krogh said in a press release.

London-based Neptune and Germany-based Wintershall were also awarded licenses.

The MPE awarded two new licenses to Neptune Energy, with both licenses being close to their existing infrastructure in the Gjøa and Fram areas of the Norwegian North Sea. Neptune is the operator of the field in the Gjøa area and a partner in the Fram area field.

These licenses reflect the company’s strategy to focus on opportunities and core areas and “emphasize the importance of the Norwegian Continental Shelf to [Neptune’s] global business,” Odin Estensen, Neptune’s managing director, said.

Wintershall was awarded 11 exploration licenses, including three as an operator. Five new licenses and six area extensions make up the area extensions, which are all located in the Norwegian Shelf — where Wintershall has existing acreage and is one of the largest license holders in the area. Of the four licenses the company was awarded in the North Sea, two, which they operate, are located close to Wintershall’s Vega and Nova fields. The seven other licenses are in the Norwegian Sea, where the company operates the Maria and Dvalin fields.

“We have been very successful with our exploration strategy in Norway in recent years, which is primarily focused on exploring close to our own fields and infrastructure,” said Georg Bresser, Wintershall’s senior vice president global exploration. “The high number of awards demonstrates our commitment to continue exploring the Norwegian Continental Shelf and underlines Wintershall Dea’s position as one of the leading explorers in Norway.”