July 13 (UPI) -- Total petroleum production in Norway so far this year is more than 1 percent, or about 9 million barrels, higher than last year, the government said.
The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate published data for year-to-date production. About 754 million barrels of oil equivalents were produced so far this year, with most of that existing as oil. The total production so far is about 8.8 million barrels of oil equivalent higher than at this point last year.
For June, the NPD, the nation's energy regulator, reported a preliminary rate of oil production at 1.55 million barrels per day, lower than expected. Total oil production to June, however, was 1.3 percent higher than expected, based on the preliminary figures.
About a quarter of the country's gross domestic production and nearly 65 percent of its exports are tied to the oil and gas sector.
Crude oil prices hit historic lows in early 2016, to below $30 per barrel, and curbed spending on exploration and production. Oil prices are holding in the mid $40 range and the NPD said companies working in Norwegian territorial waters are planning between 20 and 25 exploration wells during the second half of the year.
"There could be between eight and ten wells in both the Barents Sea and North Sea, while there could be as many as five in the Norwegian Sea," the regulator said.
During the first half of the year, companies drilled 15 exploration wells and nine of those were in frontier areas not proven to hold oil or gas reserves, known in the industry as wildcat wells.
For new discoveries, the NPD reported two each in the Barents, North and Norwegian Seas.
Norway is the top oil and gas exporter to the European economy, though most of the work contracts are kept at home. For future developments, Johan Sverdrup is one of the country's five largest offshore oil fields. Contracts worth more than $5.7 billion have been awarded for the project so far, with more than 70 percent of them going to Norwegian companies.