* 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 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
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