Thanks to costs cuts and large oil discoveries made before the oil price crash, Norway will be able to sustain its oil and gas production over the next five years. But reduced exploration drilling and lack of big discoveries in the past two years spell trouble for Western Europe’s biggest oil and gas producer after 2023, authorities fear.
Nearly two-thirds of the undiscovered resources are thought to be located in the Barents Sea, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) directorate said last week in its review of the Norwegian Continental Shelf in 2017.
However, last year’s exploration campaign in Norway’s Arctic was a flop. Oil companies are not giving up on Barents Sea exploration, but firms and authorities alike have now lowered expectations about the possibility of a huge discovery in those areas.
“In the part of the Barents Sea that’s currently open, you’ve sort of tried the elephants — the big opportunities,” Bente Nyland, Director General of the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, told Bloomberg in a recent interview. “You’re now down to the next generation in size,” Nyland noted.
The authority would be happy with any discovery of around 500 million barrels of oil, Nyland told Bloomberg.
Last year, the most promising exploration well Korpfjell—the first well drilled in the Norwegian section of a formerly disputed area between Norway and Russia, and the northernmost wildcat well drilled on the Norwegian shelf—was a disappointmentcompared to expectations that it could contain more than 250 million barrels of oil equivalent, or even 1 billion boe.
The disappointing Barents Sea campaign led to just 11 companies applying for production licenses in Norway’s 24th licensing round that offered 93 blocks in the Barents Sea and 9 blocks in the Norwegian Sea. Statoil, Aker BP, and Lundin were all applying, but the NPD said that “The applicant landscape could indicate that some parties are prioritizing exploration in mature areas this time around,” commenting on the applications.
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