STAVANGER, Norway, Aug. 29 (UPI) -- Norwegian energy company Statoil announced plans to drill nine well in the arctic waters of the Barents Sea, an ice-free zone, starting next year.
Statoil said it has extensive experience in the region that makes it well-suited for a non-stop exploration campaign in the Barents Sea next year. The company was involved in more than 90 percent of the 94 exploration wells drilled in the Norwegian waters of the sea.
Tim Dodson, executive vice president for exploration at Statoil, said Norway's territorial waters in the Barents Sea are the only part of the area that's ice-free all year. It's "a less challenging area," he explained.
The company added that it was tripling its arctic campaign research budget to nearly $43 million in 2013. A research cruise to Greenland waters is planned for September.
Environmental advocacy group Greenpeace occupied the base of a drilling rig operated by Russian energy company Gazprom recently. The group said it was concerned about potential damage to the arctic environment from oil operations.
Statoil said its exploration experience in the region puts it in a good position for an expected licensing round for the Norwegian continental shelf in December.