An Arctic-focused licensing round offshore Norway has been stalled until later in 2015, according to the country’s oil ministry.

The decision to leave the round for later has been prompted by the oil price tumble of recent months, which the ministry feared would mean any round held now would be largely unsubscribed with operators cutting back on their non-core E&P spending.

No official reason has been given by the Norwegian energy ministry, which has also not specified when exactly the licensing round will take place in 2015.

The round had been keenly anticipated because of plans to make available blocks in the Arctic Barents zone bordering the country’s maritime border with Russia. The licensing process is likely to be a lengthy process when it does take place, with most observers expecting the process to take up to three years before official awards are made. Earlier in 2014 companies were asked which areas they were partic­ularly interested in seeing made available, with around 40 explorers expressing interest, including Chevron, Shell, Statoil, BP and ConocoPhillips. A total of 160 blocks and part blocks were nominated, with applications originally planned to be submitted in the second half of 2015 with awards by mid-2016.