Norway says 36 oil firms applied for licences in Arctic round

OSLO Wed Dec 5, 2012 9:26am EST

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OSLO Dec 4 (Reuters) - Norway's 22nd licencing round for oil and gas exploration in its frontier areas attracted applications from 36 companies, the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy said on Wednesday.

Norway offered 86 blocks in the licensing round, of which 72 are in the Arctic, a record number for the region, and 14 in the the Norwegian Sea.

Among the applicants were Statoil, BP, ConocoPhilips, Royal Dutch Shell and Total , as well as Russia's Lukoil.

ExxonMobil did not apply for licences.

The Barents has not been overly popular with energy firms in the past as it lacks a developed infrastructure but some major discoveries, including Statoil's Skrugard and Havis finds, have sharply increased appetite.

The area now needs a critical mass of finds, particularly for natural gas, to make large scale development more cost effective.

Oil can be transported easily by tankers but most discoveries also contain gas and a 1,000 kilometre subsea pipeline to connect into the existing infrastructure could costs 25 billion crowns ($4.44 billion), pipeline operator Gassco estimated earlier.

The government has already ruled out financial backing for the project, saying it must be an industry funded, commercially viable solution.

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