July 5 (UPI) -- As many as 8 million barrels of oil have been discovered in parts of the North Sea not previously known to contain petroleum, the Norwegian government said.
The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate published data from a well drilled by Wellesley Petroleum in the Norwegian waters of the North Sea. The well was drilled about 3 miles south of an existing discovery.
The NPD, the nation's energy regulator, said the size of the discovery could be as low as 1.8 million barrels of oil to as high as 8.1 million barrels.
While considered a relatively minor discovery, it was made in a wildcat well, one drilled into an area not previously known to contain oil or natural gas.
"The licensees will consider the discovery along with other nearby prospects and discoveries with regard to further follow-up," the regulator stated.
Wellesley has a steady string of drilling campaigns set for the year using the Transocean Arctic rig in the North Sea. Its data and information from surrounding reserves means "the range of possible discovery outcomes in the campaign is wide."
Norway is one of the main suppliers of oil and natural gas to the European market, apart from Russia. Oil and gas operations represented about 14 percent of Norway's gross domestic product and 40 percent of its export value last year.
The NPD reported in its annual resource forecast that just under half of all the expected resources on the continental shelf are in discoveries yet to be found. Its surveys resulted in an increase in the estimate of undiscovered resources from 18.2 billion to 25.2 billion barrels of oil equivalent.
Most of those undiscovered reserves are thought to be in the Barents Sea, with half of that in areas yet to be opened in the far north reaches of those waters.