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Seismic vessel Ramford Vanguard. (Photo: Ole Jørgen Bratland)

At the request of the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy (MPE), the industry, via the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association, has taken the initiative to jointly acquire seismic 3D data from the blocks in the southeastern Barents Sea that will be announced in the 23rd licensing round for the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS) in 2014.

This is the first new area on the NCS to be opened since 1994. Thirty companies showed interest in participating in such a collaboration.

Yesterday, 17 of these companies signed an agreement to establish a joint project for planning and implementing the acquisition. As the largest operator on the Norwegian shelf Statoil has taken on the operator role.

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Gro G. Haatvedt, Statoil's senior vice president for exploration on the NCS. (Photo: Ole Jørgen Bratland)

"Coordinated seismic acquisition has several advantages. It will ensure very good data quality, since the industry to a much greater extent will be able to utilise the companies' collective professional expertise within geological understanding and seismic acquisition and processing. The initiative lays the foundation for fewer, well-planned operations, thus reducing acquisition costs and potential disadvantages for the fishing industry," says Gro G. Haatvedt, Statoil's senior vice president for exploration on the NCS.

"Interest in the Barents Sea has increased considerably in recent years, due in part to the discoveries in the Johan Castberg area. High-quality 3D data will be important to the industry in order to increase understanding of the area's potential."

When the authorities circulate the 23rd round nominated blocks for public consultation, other oil companies will get a new opportunity to engage in the project. It is expected that several companies will make use of this offer.

The project will immediately initiate a tender process for the seismic acquisition. The plan is for the seismic surveys to start in April 2014 and conclude in the autumn of the same year.

The companies who will be taking part from the beginning are BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Det norske oljeselskap, Eni, GDF Suez, Idemitsu, Lukoil, Lundin, Norske Shell, PGNiG, Repsol, Spike, Statoil, Suncor, VNG and Wintershall.