Norway's oil investments seen rising in 2003

Norway's center-right government is anticipating a sharp rise in oil and gas investments next year to nearly NOK 70 billion (USD 9.35 billion), Norway's biggest employers group said on Monday. Knut Aaneland, executive manager of the petroleum branch of the Federation of Norwegian Manufacturing Industries (TBL), said the government would reveal the forecast in its 2003 budget proposal on Thursday. "The Finance Ministry will base its budget for next year on predictions of oil investments of 70 billion crowns," Aaneland said. "That is good news for the industry," he told Reuters. Next year's forecast is about 10 billion crowns higher than the government's estimates for 2002 in a revised budget earlier this year, and in line with predictions of higher oil investments by the central bank and Statistics Norway. "In order to see higher investment levels, exploration on the Norwegian shelf needs to be maintained and strengthened," Aaneland said. "More interesting blocks must be made available for exploration." Oslo's last offshore licensing round, the 17th, showed fading interest by international oil majors in the Norwegian continental shelf, following a string of disappointing finds and limited access to new exploration areas.