OSLO, Norway, June 13 (UPI) -- Strong interest in a licensing round for the Barents and Norwegian Seas shows offshore Norway is a key energy asset, the Norwegian petroleum minister said.
The Norwegian government awarded 20 licenses in the Barents Sea and four in the Norwegian Sea during its 22nd licensing round.
The government said its energy sector was one of the most vibrant in the region but it's "critical" to maintain a high level of exploration offshore.
Italian energy company Eni was among those securing rights offshore with four licenses awarded in the Barents Sea. Austrian energy company OMV, Spain's Repsol and German energy group E.ON secured rights to explore the Norwegian Sea.
"The companies have demonstrated their strong interest and submitted numerous good applications," Petroleum Minister Ola Borten Moe said in a statement Wednesday. "This confirms that the Norwegian Continental Shelf is a highly interesting petroleum province."
Norway is a regional leader in terms of oil and natural gas production. The government said production from the new licenses would begin within the next decade.