A Review of Licensing Awards in the NCS
30 November 2006

The Norwegian authorities introduced their scheme for Awards in Pre-defined Areas in
2003 as a way of reinvigorating exploration in mature areas of the Norwegian Continental
Shelf (NCS). The number of exploration wells drilled had been falling since 1997 (Figure
1). However, more frequent licensing rounds and larger available areas brought about an increase
in licensed acreage so that at the beginning of 2005, 16 percent of the area open for petroleum
activities on the NCS was licensed. When the deadline for applications expired on 30 September,
the area available for licencing had grown to 68,937 km2, thus making APA2005 the second
largest licensing round ever in terms of available area (117 blocks/part-blocks were offered in
the North Sea, 51 in the Norwegian Sea and 24 in the Barents Sea) (Figure 2). Under the APA
system all relinquished blocks within a predefined area are automatically considered as announced
at the time they are relinquished. In this way, other companies are rapidly given the opportunity
to explore, with new smaller independents welcomed. Companies may only retain areas in which they plan to commence production. So how did it all work out at the start of 2006?