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National Energy Authority operates under the authority of the Ministry of the Environment, Energy, and Climate in accordance with laws and regulations pertaining to the National Energy Authority

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National Energy Regulatory

Natural Resources

Energy Transition



Exploration licences

Instructions for Exploration Licences


For application regarding a research licence, the following information needs to be provided:

1. Purpose of research.
2. Precise delineation of the research area.
3. Timing of the research, including the duration of the study phases if applicable.
4. Detailed description of the potential impacts of the utilization on the surrounding area.
5. Detailed description of the potential impacts of the utilization on the surrounding area.
6. Research plan in outline, including stages and components.
7. Plan for intended drilling and other operations related to the research, drilling progress, and construction activities.
8. Information about landowners in the mentioned area.

This summary of essential information required for applications for research permits is primarily based on Section 18 of the regulations, subparagraphs 2 to 5, as well as Sections 11, 12, and provisions in Articles 16 and 17.

Application for exploration licences.

1. Purpose of the research (Section 16):

The purpose of the research licence must be clearly stated in the application. Research serves as preparation and preliminary work for future utilization or planned utilization. Therefore, the intended utilization should be specified in the application. It can be anticipated that research results will greatly influence the size or extent of utilization, but it is still desirable for the applicant to define the boundaries of the potential utilization. The size and methods of operation have an impact on efficient utilization and potential constraints on neighbouring operational areas. These impacts are generally smaller the less energy extraction is involved.

2. Precise delineation of the research area (Section 18, Paragraph 3):

An exact demarcation of the research area is necessary. The research as such is bound to the designated research area each time (see Section 5). The boundaries need to be defined using clear boundary lines, including specifying key points, watercourses, watershed areas, or direct lines connecting clear markers in the landscape. A map with relevant scale must be attached, ensuring that the boundaries do not become unclear.

3. Timing of the research (Section 18, Paragraph 2):

It is important to have a schedule for the intended research, as organized, sensible, and effective research execution is tied to the timing of individual stages. Furthermore, NEA's supervision (Sections 21 and 22) is closely linked to the duration of the licence. The exact duration and dates for the start and completion of the research or the research phases permitted should be specified.

4. Detailed description of the likely impact on neighboring areas (Section 17):

During the processing of applications, an assessment of the potential impacts of research on the utilization of neighboring operational areas is necessary. Furthermore, the likelihood of impacts on neighboring areas due to the research on the operational area must be evaluated. Assessing such impacts cannot be precise before research commences, as it depends on existing knowledge. There could be a conflict of interests between operators in neighboring areas and the applicant due to environmental impacts. The possibility of requesting further information based on this data is evident.

5. Overview of previous research in the area, reports, and data.

Previous research forms the basis for a research plan and can significantly influence research timing, intended utilization, and other aspects related to the research.

6. Research plan in outline, stages, and components.

A research plan is a prerequisite for an effective record of information and notification obligations of the permit holder towards the NEA (Section 18, Paragraph 6, Section 22). It is also essential to consider what kind of research will be conducted and whether the plan is to execute the research in stages. The timing of the permit can depend on these factors.

7. Plan for intended drilling and other operations related to the research, drilling progress, and construction activities.

A plan for human activities and ground disturbances during the research must be provided (Section 18, Paragraph 5, Section 12). The NEA has a say in various operations related to research, such as drilling, etc. (Section 4, Paragraph 2, Sections 21 and 22). Connected to this plan is how to proceed from "workstations and land that have been altered by the research [...]" (Section 18, Paragraph 12), which relates to the NEA's supervision of geothermal areas (Section 21). Therefore, the plan for proceeding from boreholes, access roads, etc., must be clear. Measures to minimize environmental impact of utilization (Sections 24 and 25) can concern the NEA due to its supervision (Sections 21 and 22), as well as information and notification obligations (Section 18, Paragraph 6).

8. Information about landowners

According to the law on research and utilization of resources in the earth, No. 57/1998, the licence holder is required to notify relevant landowners of submitted research licence applications and provide them with the opportunity to comment on them, in accordance with Sections 13 and 14 of the Administrative Procedures Act, No. 37/1993, referring to the judgment of the Reykjavik District Court in case No. E-45/2004. Therefore, information about registered landowners on the intended research area is desired, in order to submit relevant applications for review according to the provisions of administrative law.

Processing of the Application

The process begins with the interested party applying for a licence from the NEA. The NEA then sends the application, assuming that all the necessary information is included, to authorized legal reviewers for evaluation. The reviews are then presented to the applicant, who is invited to provide comments on the presented reviews as necessary. Based on the application, reviews, and applicant's comments on them, the NEA makes a decision regarding the issuance or rejection of the licence. If the permit is granted, the NEA oversees the permit and appoints a responsible party for the permit. It is expected that the licence holder will similarly fulfil responsibilities.

According to the third paragraph of Section 33 of the law, No. 57/1998, administrative decisions made by the NEA regarding issuance, revision, or revocation of research or utilization licence under these laws are subject to the appeals process before the Environmental and Resource Appeals Committee. Regarding participation, timeframes for appeals, the processing of cases, and other matters concerning the appeal, the provisions of the law on the Appeals Committee apply.