UPDATE 1-Norway's Arctic attracts record interest
* 181 blocks in the Norwegian Arctic nominated by firms * 37 oil firms bid in Norway's 22nd oil licensing round * Oil majors applying: Exxon, Conoco, Total, Shell By Gwladys Fouche OSLO, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Norway's remote Arctic offshore region attracted record interest from oil companies in the latest licensing round after 181 blocks in the Barents Sea were nominated by oil firms, the Nordic country's oil ministry said on Monday. A total of 228 blocks or partial blocks were nominated by 37 oil firms, either in the Barents Sea - to the very north of Norway - or further south in the Norwegian Sea. "Some 181 blocks in the Barents Sea have been nominated, the highest-ever number," the ministry said in a statement. The oil firms that presented bids for the country's 22nd exploration licensing round, for areas that have not been previously explored for oil, included ExxonMobil, Shell , ConocoPhillips, Total and Statoil . BP did not apply. Three significant discoveries have been made in the remote region over the past year, including Total's Norvarg discovery and Statoil's Havis and Skrugard finds, accelerating the scramble to find and produce Arctic energy resources. Havis and Skrugard could together hold between 400 million and 600 million barrels, Statoil previously said. Small and medium firms dominate the list of applicants, among them Sweden's Lundin Petroleum, Norway's Det norske and Rocksource, Germany's Wintershall and France's GdF Suez. The ministry did not say which specific areas the companies were bidding for, nor did it say how many blocks each firm was applying for. Norwegian authorities have sought to attract small and medium oil firms in recent years to boost the diversity of market participants and increase exploration activity. The number of companies applying for the current round is less than in previous years - 43 firms applied for the 21st round and 46 for the one before. The ministry will evaluate which blocks it will offer to companies and will announce which blocks will be on offer before the summer.
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