Norway on Tuesday said it plans to offer a record number of oil and gas exploration blocks in the Arctic in its 2023 licensing round as it seeks to sustain hydrocarbon production in response to Europe's energy needs, but environmental campaigners have criticised the risks to the environment.

As Europe's largest gas supplier and a major crude exporter, Norway expects to see production reach a plateau in the next two years, and then start to decline.

The proposed licensing round announced on Tuesday will offer 78 blocks in the Barents Sea, the highest number since the so-called APA (awards in predefined areas) licensing round began in 2003, restricted to established areas of offshore oil and gas production.