"Opening the first new region for petroleum activity since 1994 will allow us to explore new, promising areas for oil and gas, provide new opportunities and new impetus in northern Norway and boost value creation and employment across the country," Petroleum Minister Ola Borten Moe said in a statement.
The minister said the new offshore area may add as much as 30 percent to the undiscovered reserve potential in the Barents Sea. The Norwegian government said the region may hold more than 1 billion cubic feet of oil equivalent, describing the reserve potential as "high."
"Petroleum activity offers an opportunity to create new, exciting and attractive jobs, and helps to sustain vigorous local communities," Moe said. "I am confident that the region will now exploit the opportunities on offer."
Norway is the largest oil producer in Europe and the second-largest exporter of natural gas after Russia.