Norway has opened up a potentially exciting area in the Barents Sea for exploration after the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy offered 10 new production licences in the region in the country’s 23rd licensing round. Three of the licences are in the newly opened area in the Barents Sea southeast.

The ministry said 13 companies have been offered stakes, with five companies offered operatorship. There were applications from 26 companies for acreage.

Statoil has been awarded five licences, four as operator and one as partner. The award covers five commitment wells—one in the vicinity of Statoil’s existing position and four in the new southeastern part of the Barents Sea.

“The Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS) is the core of Statoil’s business. Gradually opening up new areas is crucial for us to maintain profitable and high-level production up to and beyond 2030,” said Arne Sigve Nylund, Statoil’s executive vice president for Development & Production Norway.

“We will now be able to explore a very interesting area in the Barents Sea. There is always uncertainty related to probability of discovery in new areas. But if we make a discovery, it may involve considerable resources. Exploring in such areas and making substantial discoveries are vital if the NCS is to maintain its production,” said Jez Averty, Statoil’s senior vice president for exploration on the NCS.

“We have built on our 40-year-long history in North Norway and our long experience from Barents Sea exploration. A large Statoil team has worked for 24 months to improve this application, and I am very proud of the effort made by everyone across Statoil that has led to this award,” Averty said.

Det norske oljeselskap, meanwhile, has been awarded one operatorship and two partnerships in the 23rd round, while Lundin Petroleum has been awarded five licences, including three as operator. “The Barents Sea offers great, new opportunities. The industry’s interest in new acreage shows that the Norwegian Continental Shelf remains attractive. The potential is huge. If the companies are successful in their exploration, Northern Norway will enter a new era,” Energy Minister Tord Lien said.