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Statoil sets sights on Barents Sea

Half of the reserves left offshore Norway may be in northern waters.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Statoil sets sights on Barents Sea
Norwegian energy company Statoil said it aims to extend its reach next year into the waters off the northern coast of the country. Photo courtesy of the Petroleum Safety Authority of Norway

STAVANGER, Norway, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Norwegian energy company Statoil said it aims to extend its reach north to the Barents Sea next year in an effort to replenish its exploration portfolio.

"New and major discoveries are crucial to maintain the current Norwegian continental shelf production level up to 2030 and beyond," Jez Averty, the head of regional exploration for Statoil, said in a statement. "The areas off the coast of northern Norway will play a key role in reaching this ambition."

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The Norwegian government confirmed a sizable discovery of oil and natural gas at the Snohvit field in the Barents Sea two years ago at 525 billion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas and more than 130 million barrels of recoverable oil reserves.

For next year, Statoil said the results could be promising for its acreage in the Barents Sea. The company already has a rig on contract suitable for operations in northern waters and said it's slated to drill up to seven wells in the region in 2017.

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Greenpeace in 2014 declared victory after Statoil ended a campaign in the Hoop reserve area in the Arctic waters of the Barents Sea. The Hoop reserve area is near Bear Island, a unique island ecosystem that Greenpeace said would be spoiled should a spill occur in the area.

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Small volumes of hydrocarbons were encountered by Statoil, but nothing in the way of a commercial discovery. Statoil said no new discoveries were made in the region during previous campaigns, though field studies added to the estimated reserve potential from basins already in its portfolio.

"Exploration is a long-term process requiring patience, and information from the previous campaign has been used to further deepen the company's understanding of the petroleum potential of the Barents Sea," Averty said.

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According to its estimates, there are roughly 18 billion barrels of oil equivalent yet to be discovered in Norwegian waters. Half of that is in the Barents Sea.

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