Strong interest from international energy companies bidding in Norway\'s latest auction highlights strong interest in the Barents Sea, the government said. The Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy said it received proposals from 37 energy companies vying for the rights to more than 200 blocks up for grabs in the country. Of those, 181 are in the Barents Sea, the highest ever. \"In this round of nominations, particular interest has been shown in our northernmost sea areas, confirming that the Barents Sea is an exciting and internationally attractive petroleum province,\" Energy Minister Ola Borten Moe said in a statement. Moe went on to say that exploration in the region would have a \"ripple effect\" on the Norwegian economy. Norwegian energy company Statoil last year said a find in the Skrugard prospect in the Barents Sea holds 150 million-250 million barrels of oil equivalent. Energy companies had until Jan. 11 to submit proposals to the Norwegian government. New production licenses will be given out early next year following a period for public comments.