STAVANGER, Norway, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- Offshore Norway continued its trajectory for expanded oil and gas exploration work, with the government signing off on two new programs.
Norwegian energy company Statoil, which is partially owned by the government, was given consent to drill an exploration well in the Norwegian Sea. A subsidiary of Lundin Petroleum, meanwhile, was given approval for an exploration well in the Barents Sea, which holds a good deal of what's left in terms of oil and natural gas reserves off the coast of Norway.
According to a revised country profile from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Norway has the largest oil and gas reserves of any European country and is a main regional supplier to the market apart from Russia. It's the third largest gas exporter in the world and nearly all of its crude oil exports target Europe.
The government reported preliminary data for November show an average production of 2.15 million barrels of oil, natural gas liquid and an ultra-light product called condensate, which is about 2 percent higher than figures from October. In October, Statoil uncovered oil near an existing field in the southern waters of the Norwegian Sea while drilling into an area not previously known to contain hydrocarbons.
Norway's trajectory should continue at least short-term. The Johan Sverdrup oil field, the largest oil discovery ever when it was made in 2011, is set to start production next year and account for about 25 percent of the expected production from offshore Norway.
By the EIA's count, there have been at least two major natural gas discoveries offshore Norway this year and both should start production by 2018.