Awarded by the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, the ten new licenses have been offered to 13 companies for exploration in new acreage in the southeastern Barents Sea for the first time in two decades.

Norwegian Oil and Energy Minister Tord Lien said: "This will contribute to employment, growth and value creation in Norway.

"Northern Norway is now in the forefront of further developing the Norwegian petroleum industry."

The licenses were offered to companies including Statoil Petroleum, Tullow Oil Norge, Lukoil Overseas North Shelf and Lundin Norway.

Other firms include Capricorn Norge, Centrica Resources (Norge), Chevron Norge, ConocoPhillips Skandinavia, DEA Norge, Det norske oljeselskap, Idemitsu Petroleum Norge, OMV (Norge) and PGNiG Upstream International.

Lien added: "The industry’s interest in new acreage shows that the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS) remains attractive. The potential is huge. If the companies are successful in their exploration, Northern Norway will enter a new era."

The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate said that the first exploration well drilling is expected to commence as early as next year.

Meanwhile, environmental group Greenpeace has criticized the new licensing awards claiming that it violates the Paris Climate Agreement.

Greenpeace Norway head Truls Gulowsen said: "It is with shock and anger we register that Norway is violating two recent environmental agreements, just to get their hands on Arctic oil."

Image: Norwegian Oil and Energy Minister Tord Lien. Photo: courtesy of Ministry of Petroleum and Energy.