* Norway plans first offshore wind power permits in 2022
* May add more acreage in 2023, energy minister says
* Will continue producing oil as long as there is demand
* Says stable oil price preferable (Adds comments on Arctic oil)
OSLO, June 24 (Reuters) - Norway is seeing big interest from energy firms in developing offshore wind farms in its ongoing licensing round and may offer additional acreage in 2023, Minister of Petroleum and Energy Tina Bru told Reuters on Thursday.
“The interest is huge and I’m really looking forward to the developments,” she said, speaking in an interview at the Reuters Events: Global Energy Transition conference.
The Nordic country, better known for its vast oil and gas industry, has already announced plans to award offshore acreage in two locations to companies seeking to set up giant wind turbines.
Close to 30 companies have already expressed an interest in obtaining licences for offshore wind ahead of an application deadline later this year, according to a Reuters tally, and more could emerge.
Asked if more acreage could be made available in 2023, Bru said “probably, yes”.
“We’ve given an assignment to the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE) to start the process of finding and proposing new areas for development. We think that’s probably going to take around two years,” she said.
The high interest in offshore wind comes as Norway is seeing declining enthusiasm from oil firms to explore in its Arctic region.
Oil companies were more interested in looking for oil and gas near existing infrastructure, rather than in frontier offshore areas that were on offer in the latest licensing round, and were also thinking about climate risks, said Bru.
“They’re thinking about what will be the developments of climate policy: How quickly will we be moving away from oil and gas? So making sure you have robust (oil) projects is of course important also for them, just like it is for the states,” she said.
Norway will continue producing oil and gas as long as there is demand, said Bru.
“If we were to stop producing tomorrow ... other producing countries would quickly fill that demand again because we produce so little,” she said.
“I don’t see the point in Norway not delivering that energy, as long as that demand is there, but it’s important for me to say that we are very prepared for a future where demand will be lower.”
NO TO VERY HIGH OIL PRICES
Bru declined to predict whether the price of crude oil, which has doubled since last November, will continue to rise, but said stability was preferable over time.
“I don’t think we should wish for a very, very high oil price. We’ve seen what kinds of effects that can have in the long term,” Bru said.
“Stable prices are very much more important for the whole world economy and also for us as a producer, so we’ll have to see what happens, but we do know one thing and that is that it’s pretty impossible to predict,” she added.
Norway is western Europe’s largest oil and gas producer with a daily output of around 4 million barrels of oil equivalent.
For more on the Reuters Events: Global Energy Transition conference please click here [here ] (Editing by Terje Solsvik and Mark Potter)