OSLO, Norway, Aug. 29 (UPI) -- The Norwegian government said Thursday it was inviting oil companies to nominate areas they want to see on the auction block for offshore development.
Norwegian Oil Minister Ola Borten Moe announced the invitation for the planned licensing round on the Norwegian shelf.
"The primary focus area will be the southeastern Barents Sea," the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate said in a statement Thursday. "The ministry is also accepting nominations in the Norwegian Sea and North Sea."
The Norwegian government awarded 20 licenses in the Barents Sea and four in the Norwegian Sea during its 22nd licensing round in June. The government said the offshore acreage for the next round, the 23rd, includes frontier areas in the southeast Barents Sea, the first time the government opened new areas for bidding since 1994.
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.
Nominations are due in January. Upstream Online reports the acreage is for area in the arctic north once a source of dispute with Russia. It's estimated to hold approximately 1.9 barrels of oil equivalent, most of which exist as natural gas.