Norway launches new licensing round

Norway, while warning of the potential for espionage directed against its oil and gas industry, has launched its 2010 oil and gas licensing round for predefined areas (APA).

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 25 -- Norway, while warning of the potential for espionage directed against its oil and gas industry, has launched its 2010 oil and gas licensing round for predefined areas (APA).

“Good and regular access to acreage is necessary to secure further activity on the Norwegian Continental Shelf,” said Norwegian Oil Minister Terje Riis-Johansen.

The 2010 APAs will offer 63 more predefined areas compared with the 2009 round: 43 in the Norwegian Sea and 20 in the Barents Sea. Sept. 15 is the deadline for application, and the new licenses are to be awarded late 2010 or early 2011.

Although a number of the blocks announced have seen earlier petroleum activity, the announcement is said to represent a major extension of oil and gas operations in the Norwegian Arctic.

“With this [launch], I prepare the ground for new findings, new field development and new activity in the North,” said Riis-Johansen, who earlier also announced that “I want to have more projects on the [NCS].”

PST's threat report
The round’s launch coincided with an annual report by the Norwegian Police Security (PST) that foreign states’ intelligence activity in Norway and against Norwegian interests will remain at a high level in 2010.

“PST anticipates that political decision-making processes related to the High North will be particularly susceptible to foreign intelligence activities,” the report said, adding that “advanced technological environments in the Norwegian petroleum and energy sphere will be vulnerable targets.”

“Currently the greatest intelligence activity registered by PST has been within the management of the oil and gas resources in the High North,” said the PST report.

“The extraction of oil and gas resources in the north constantly requires technological innovation,” it said, noting that several intelligence services focus on such technological environments to enable them to gain a competitive edge.

“Norwegian specialist communities are technologically far ahead in this field and must therefore expect undesired intelligence activities to be directed at their work,” the report said.

Foreign states’ intelligence activity will continue to be geared towards political decision makers, employees in bureaucracy, players in the business sector, journalists, and individuals working in research and development, the report said.

No specific foreign intelligence services or countries were named in the PST’s threat report.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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