STAVANGER, Norway, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Norwegian energy major Statoil said it would drill 30 percent more exploration wells than it did in 2016 and most of those will be in domestic basins.
The oil and gas company, in which the Norwegian government has a stake, said it plans to drill approximately 30 exploration wells this year, compared with 23 last year. More than half of the new wells planned for this year will target basins on the Norwegian continental shelf.
Tim Dodson, executive vice president for exploration, said in a statement that company improvements in efficiency and changing market conditions were supportive of an increase in exploration-related developments.
"The upcoming well program is balanced between proven, well known basins and new frontier opportunities," he added.
The government last month confirmed a discovery in a wildcat well 4 miles away from the closed Frigg field in the North Sea. A wildcat well is one drilled into an area not previously known to hold oil or natural gas reserves and the government put the low-end reserve estimate at 25 million barrels of recoverable oil equivalents.
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.
Statoil said at least five wells are slated for the Barents Sea, which it singled out as the core of its exploration plans for 2017. For the Norwegian and North Seas, Statoil said it was planning to prolong the life of legacy assets.
"New discoveries are crucial to counteract decline on the Norwegian continental shelf," the company stated.
Elsewhere, Statoil said it was planning more exploration work offshore Brazil and in the U.S. waters of the Gulf of Mexico.