June 18 (UPI) -- Opening up more areas in the Barents Sea for drillers is expected to deliver in terms of future production, the Norwegian government said Monday.
Eleven companies were offered 12 production licenses by the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy. Of those, nine are in the Barents Sea.
"Our analyses show that the largest undiscovered resource potential on the Norwegian continental shelf is in the Barents Sea," Torgeir Stordal, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate's director for exploration, said in a statement. "We also believe that this is the area on the Shelf most likely to deliver large discoveries."
Norway is one of the main suppliers of oil and natural gas to the European market, apart from Russia. Around 60 percent of the undiscovered resources are in the Norwegian waters of the Barents Sea, and it's there where maintaining a high level of production may be important over the long term.
The NPD said average production for April, the last full month for which data are available, was 1.5 million barrels of oil per day and 325,000 barrels of natural gas liquids. Oil production was 4 percent below government expectations, primarily because of maintenance work at offshore fields.
For full-year 2018, Statistics Norway, the government's record-keeping agency, expects total investments in oil and gas extraction and pipeline transport will be around $1.4 billion. That's 11 percent higher than the government's estimate for 2018 from the fourth quarter.
The three other licenses are in the Norwegian Sea and two of those are in deep waters.
"It is encouraging that the industry wants to explore these frontier areas of the shelf," Stordal said.
There were 85 fields in production on the Norwegian continental shelf last year and, while oil production was slightly lower, total output increased for the fourth straight year.