OSLO, Norway, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Energy companies interested in mature fields on the Norwegian continental shelf are invited to submit bids, the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy said.
Norwegian Energy Minister Ola Borten Moe said applications are due by September. The goal is to award new production licenses by 2014.
"Exploration activity and access to areas constitute the very basis for petroleum activity on the Norwegian continental shelf," he said in a statement. "The results of previous ... rounds show that the scheme is highly important and that it has generated very substantial values for Norwegian society."
All of the blocks set for auction are in the Norwegian Sea near the Aasta Hansteen natural gas field.
Field operator Statoil in January submitted development plans for Aasta Hansteen to the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy. The company said the field development marks the first time natural gas exploration is planned for the deep waters of the Norwegian Sea.
"Expansion will ensure that any additional resources located around Aasta Hansteen can be exploited in a timely and optimal manner," Moe said.
Last month, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate said it estimated there was around 480 billion cubic feet of oil equivalents left on the Norwegian continental shelf.