Jan. 18 (UPI) -- After a record-setting auction for rights to mostly North Sea operations, the Norwegian government said Statoil now has approval for exploration in the area
The Petroleum Safety Authority said Statoil has consent to use the Deepsea Bergen drill ship, owned and operated by Odfjell Drilling, for 37 days starting in February. The duration of the exploration program depends on whether or not a discovery is made in the waters off the western coast of Norway.
The consent follows this week's conclusion of an annual auction for licenses in Norwegian waters. The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, the country's energy regulator, said the auction this year was also one of the most diverse, with licenses spread out among small and international majors. Of the 75 production licenses, 45 are in the North Sea, 22 are in the Norwegian Sea and eight are in the Norwegian waters of the Barents Sea.
Statoil was offered interests in 31 exploration licenses offshore Norway.
There were 85 fields in production on the Norwegian continental shelf last year. Jez Averty, the senior vice president for Statoil's exploration plans, said a robust program was needed to ensure reliable output from offshore basins.
"New discoveries are needed in order to offset the declining production on existing fields on the Norwegian continental shelf," he said in a statement.
The National Petroleum Directorate said last week, meanwhile, that around 60 percent of the undiscovered resources are in the Barents Sea and it's there where maintaining a high level of production may be important over the long term.
Statoil has plans to drill, or participate in the drilling of, as many as 30 exploration wells offshore this year. That's an increase from the 19 tapped last year.
Norway is, apart from Russia, an important oil and natural gas supplier to the European economy, sending nearly all of its offshore production to the export market.