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Norway's Statoil top bidder for U.S. offshore licenses

Norwegian oil company says it responded in part to improved market and lease conditions.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Norwegian oil company Statoil among the most successful bidders in an auction to drill in the U.S. waters of the Gulf of Mexico. File photo by A.J. Sisco/UPI. | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/81161adb3e64214ba93a714ef9ba375a/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Norwegian oil company Statoil among the most successful bidders in an auction to drill in the U.S. waters of the Gulf of Mexico. File photo by A.J. Sisco/UPI. | License Photo

March 23 (UPI) -- As one of the companies with the largest take in a U.S. offshore auction, Norway's Statoil said it reset its Gulf of Mexico position as the market improves.

Statoil was the high bidder on 13 of the tracts up for sale in the latest auction for the rights to drill in the U.S. waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Of the more than two dozen companies with successful bids, Statoil was near the top with company bids of more than $51 million.

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The company was the successful high bidder in all but two of the leases it targeted in the central waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Erik Haaland, a spokesperson for Statoil, told UPI in response to emailed questions that the company is moving on U.S. opportunities as market conditions improve.

"We are pleased with having the winning bid for 13 blocks and will now mature these prospects," he said. "The deciding factor to bid was that we see potential for value in these blocks."

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Haaland added that, following a string of bad luck with wells it operated there, Statoil "took a break" from the Gulf of Mexico to take a lessons-learned approach to development.

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Lease sales last year brought few bidders to the table because of market conditions weakened by historically low crude oil prices. Markets have since stabilized in part because of a production agreement managed by members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

The U.S. Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management secured nearly $275 million in high bids for acreage offshore Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said the results of the auction show U.S. economic recovery will hinge in part on energy development.

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"Expanded Gulf production is critical to America's economic and energy security, and will play a greater role as we move to break our dependence on foreign oil and strengthen the nation's energy independence," he said in a statement.

U.S. President Donald Trump has put emphasis on the oil and gas sector since taking office, paving the way for increased pipeline infrastructure during his first months in the White House.

U.S. companies Exxon Mobil and Chevron were in the top five with 20 and 19 successful bids respectively. Royal Dutch Shell tied for first with Exxon.

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Last year, Statoil production from its offshore portfolio in the United States averaged 60,000 barrels per day. By 2020, the company aims to double that, making the Norwegian oil company one of the top 5 producers from the U.S. waters in the Gulf of Mexcio.

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