Norway freezes drilling in new deepwater blocks

OSLO Tue Jun 8, 2010 8:00am EDT

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway will not open new deep-water areas for drilling until an investigation sheds light on BP's well blowout and massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Oil and Energy Minister Terje Riis-Johansen said on Tuesday.

"We are now working on the 21st licensing round. It will be conducted in light of what we have experienced in the Gulf of Mexico," Riis-Johansen said in a statement.

"It is not appropriate for me to allow drilling in any new licenses in deep-water areas until we have good knowledge of what has happened with the Deepwater Horizon (rig operated by BP) and what this means for our regulations," he added.

Asked by Reuters if this meant that the licensing round, due for completion around mid-2010, was delayed, a ministry spokeswoman said: "The round will take place as planned and the government will decide which areas to open for activities before the summer break (in July)."

(Reporting by Wojciech Moskwa and Ole Petter Skonnord)