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"Regrettable that Nordland VI will not be made available"(VEDLEGG)

December 16, 2003, 10:30 CET

Hydro regrets that the Norwegian government will not open up the Nordland VI area off Lofoten for exploration activities. "However we are pleased that further activity in the southern Barents Sea will be possible, and that the exploration areas offered in the 18th round are so extensive," says exploration manager Nils Telnæs.

The Minister of Petroleum and Energy, Einar Steensnæs, presented the government's conclusion on petroleum activities in the northern areas on Monday.

The conclusion is that Nordland VI will not be opened for further petroleum activity. An assessment of this area will not be carried out until an overall management plan for the Barents Sea has been drawn up.

Meanwhile, the government will allow all-year round petroleum activities in large parts of the southern areas of the Barents Sea that are already available.

"Hydro regrets that the government doesn't allow further activity in Nordland VI. This and other areas off Lofoten may contain considerable resources and are one of the few remaining parts of the Norwegian continental shelf, where there is a possibility of finding relatively large oil resources," says exploration manager Nils Telnæs in Exploration and Development.

Environmentally responsible
He believes it is fully possible to carry out environmentally responsible activities in these areas. There are no indications in the "Study of the impact of all-year round petroleum activities in the Lofoten and Barents Sea area" from which to draw a conclusion that further activity should be stopped, he points out.

"It's unfortunate that the government wishes to wait until the management plan for the Barents Sea has been drawn up before carrying out a new assessment of this area. The management plan should be completed in the winter of 2005/2006, which means that it won't be possible to resume any exploration activity off Lofoten before the autumn of 2007 at the earliest," he says.

Telnæs finds it positive, however, that the government will allow further activity in parts of the southern Barents Sea. Hydro is operator for a seismic acreage in this area, with a prospect with considerable potential resources, although the probability of discoveries is relatively low.

"We will now work with the two other operators in the Barents Sea, Statoil and Agip, to plan a possible drilling campaign in autumn/winter 2004/2005," says Telnæs.

Extensive 18th round
The government also presented the areas that will be available in the 18th licensing round on Monday. This round includes a total of 95 blocks or parts of blocks in the North Sea and the Norwegian Sea. This is nearly three times as many blocks as in the 17th round, and considerably more that has been usual in the last years' rounds.

"It is positive that so many blocks are being made available in the Norwegian Sea and the North Sea. A total of 32 blocks were made available in the 17th round in comparison. The big surprise is that there are so many blocks in the southern part of the North Sea," says Telnæs.

The application deadline for the 18th round is 15 March 2004, and the production licences will be awarded before the summer.

Press release and chart from the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy:

All-year petroleum activity in the area Lofoten Barents Sea (2003-12-15)
Announcement of the 18th Licensing Round (2003-12-15)
Announced blocks in the North Sea (PDF 930KB) 
Announced blocks in the Norwegian Sea (PDF 925KB)