Announcing the new exploration round, Norway's minister for petroleum and energy, Tine Bru, said that such licensing rounds were “pillars of petroleum policy”, without which activity in the Norwegian oil industry would grind to a halt.
“Regular access to new exploration areas is crucial to maintaining activity on the Norwegian continental shelf,” she said.
“We need new discoveries to maintain employment and value creation going forward. I have good faith that the opportunities we now offer in the Barents Sea and the Norwegian Sea will be attractive to companies.”
Silje Lundberg, Chairman of the Norwegian Society for the Conservation of Nature, said that issuing new licenses made no sense when the world cannot afford to use even the oil and gas reserves that have already been discovered.
“The government's oil policy is so insanely irresponsible that it is difficult to find words,” she wrote in a press release.
“With this, the government is emphatically showing that neither climate nor vulnerable nature will put any restrictions on Norwegian oil policy. The time is long past when new exploration rounds should be dropped and instead energy put into achieving the change Norway and the world needs.”
The new licensing round comes after Norway's political parties agreed to new rules over the so-called 'ice edge' that defines how far north in the Arctic oil and gas companies can operate.