SANDEFJORD, Norway, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Norway's oil ministry awarded 56 offshore exploration licences on Tuesday in a bid to lift output from acreage located near existing oil and gas fields.
A total of 29 companies won stakes in the annual award of acreage in so-called mature areas, or areas already opened for exploration, that aims to ensure maximum utilisation of past investments in platforms, pipes and other infrastructure.
A year ago, the ministry awarded 56 exploration licenses to 36 companies in a similar round of awards. A total of 33 firms applied for acreage, down from 43 companies in the previous round.
Of the 56 licences, 36 were in the North Sea, 17 in the Norwegian Sea and three in the Barents Sea.
The biggest winner was Statoil with 29 licences, including 16 operatorships, while Aker BP came in second with 21 licences, of which 13 were operatorships.
Others to win one or more operatorships include Lundin , Eni, ConocoPhillips, Shell Total and Wintershall among others.
(Reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis and Joachim Dagenborg, editing by Terje Solsvik and Gwladys Fouche)
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