* 48 firms awarded stakes out of 50 firms that applied
* First such round since last year's oil tax hike
* Norway's oil output fell to 25-year low in 2013
By Gwladys Fouche and Henrik Stolen
SANDEFJORD, Norway, Jan 21 Norway awarded a
record 65 oil and gas production licences in a mature area
licensing round, its oil minister said on Tuesday, maintaining
high interest from energy firms despite an oil tax hike and
increased industry costs.
Some 48 companies, also a record, were awarded stakes, of
which 29 won operatorships.
Norwegian authorities will hope the interest prolongs
production, after the world's seventh-biggest crude oil exporter
saw its oil output fall to a 25-year low in 2013.
"Both numbers this year are new records," Norway's oil and
energy minister Tord Lien told an audience of oil and gas
executives. "Exploring in new and mature areas is the key to
create value for the industry."
The licensing round was the first after the previous
centre-left government, which left power in October, introduced
an oil tax hike opposed by oil and gas companies.
The biggest winners were Statoil with 7
operatorships in 10 licenses, Sweden's Lundin Petroleum
with 4 operatorships in 9 licenses, Wintershall, a
unit of German chemical giant BASF, with 5
operatorships in 8 licenses, and Tullow Oil with 4
operatorships also in 8 licenses.
Two companies that applied for licenses were left
empty-handed: RWE Dea and Iceland's Eykon Energy.
Out of 65 production licences awarded, 38 are located in the
North Sea, 19 in the Norwegian Sea and 8 in the Barents Sea.
Unexplored areas will be offered later this year and will
include for the first time licenses in an offshore zone the size
of Switzerland in the Barents Sea that borders Russia, where
some 1.9 billion barrels of oil equivalent could lay buried
under the seabed.