One of the main objectives of Norway’s petroleum policy is to provide a framework for effective and profitable utilisation of oil and gas resources in a long-term perspective. To reach this goal, a large and diverse number of companies is required, stimulating competition and making sure there is sufficient interest in the different tasks and challenges that need to be tackled.
A production licence is normally awarded to a group of companies headed by a designated operator. Including several companies in one licence enables less experienced companies to learn from those with more experience, and the different companies can control the operator’s activities and together ensure that the best possible decisions are taken.
Since 2000, there has been a considerable increase in the number and diversity of companies operating on the Norwegian shelf. Before this, a small number of large Norwegian and international companies dominated. As parts of the continental shelf have matured and different challenges have arisen, the Norwegian authorities have considered it important to make adjustments to ensure effective exploration, development of discoveries and production on fields that are on stream.
There are particularly three important policy adjustments that have encouraged diversity on the Norwegian shelf:
- The introduction of a prequalification requirement for new operators and licensees in 2000 paved the way for the participation of new companies.
- The APA system introduced in 2003 ensures that new areas are regularly made available for exploration and that acreage in mature areas continues to be actively explored, in line with the objective of effective resource management.
- Since the income year 2005, the reimbursement system for exploration costs has ensured that companies are treated equally in respect of these costs regardless of whether or not they are liable to pay tax.
Today, 27 companies are operators on the Norwegian shelf and a further 20 are partners in production licences. The diversity of companies of all sizes promotes competition and efficiency. It also ensures interest in different types of projects, and the companies make use of different kinds of technologies and plays (exploration models).
The oil industry is cyclical, and challenging times force many players to set the necessary priorities. Although the Norwegian shelf still is attractive internationally, some companies will concentrate their activities on their core areas. This means that some companies may withdraw entirely or partly from the Norwegian continental shelf, while other companies will increase their presence.
Number of companies on the Norwegian continental shelf 2000-2016, by size
Source: Norwegian Petroleum Directorate