OSLO, April 21 (Reuters) – Norway launched its 2015 oil and gas licensing round in mature areas on Tuesday, expanding it to include blocks near recent discoveries, hoping for additional resources to make future developments more profitable.
Western Europe's biggest energy producer regularly offers blocks that were either handed back or not taken in previous rounds as technological advances and nearby discoveries improve exploration prospects over time.
New blocks included in the round are near Statoil's Aasta Hansteen gas field, Lundin Petroleum's Alta and Gohta finds and blocks near the smaller Pil and Bue discoveries, the oil ministry said.
Mature areas licensing rounds have led to a plethora of discoveries in recent years and even part of the giant Johan Sverdrup field, with up to 3 billion barrels of oil equivalents was found through such an award.
Norway handed out 54 licences to 42 companies in last year's mature areas licensing round as demand from explorers remained high despite crashing oil prices thanks to government subsidies for exploration.
Unlike other producers, Norway hands out licences for free and subsidizes both exploration and development costs before imposing a 78 percent tax on production.
Oil firms will have until Sept. 2 to apply and the government plans to hand out the blocks in early 2016.
Norway is also conducting a separate licensing round for frontier areas with a focus on Arctic areas and expects applications until Dec 2.
(Reporting by Balazs Koranyi, editing by Terje Solsvik and Louise Heavens)
Copyright 2016 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.
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