April 7 (UPI) -- The government of Norway, one of the largest oil and gas exporters to Europe, said Friday it signed off on new drilling permits in its territorial waters.
Norwegian energy company Statoil was granted a drilling permit for a well in the Snøhvit field in its northern territorial waters.
"This is the first well to be drilled in the license area," the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate stated.
The Norwegian government confirmed a sizable discovery of oil and natural gas at the Snøhvit field in the Barents Sea three years ago at 525 billion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas and more than 130 million barrels of recoverable oil reserves.
According to government estimates, there are roughly 18 billion barrels of oil equivalent yet to be discovered in Norwegian waters. Half of that is in the Barents Sea.
Elsewhere, the NPD issued a drilling permit for the newly-minted joint venture Aker BP for a license area in the central waters of the North Sea that border British territorial waters. Drilling will be in an area just southwest of the Volund field, which the government estimates has 26.4 million barrels of oil remaining.
The permit for Aker BP allows for the drilling of the first well in this license area as well, the NPD said.
Aker BP, a merger of Norwegian energy companies and a national subsidiary of BP, reported adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization at $485 million for the fourth quarter, which it attributed to a string of milestone achievements in its short track record.
Apart from Russia, Norway is a lead oil and natural gas supplier to the European economy, exporting nearly all of what it produces offshore.