Statoil continues to lead exploration pack

Early entrance into new plays and a geographically diverse portfolio have helped build Statoil into one of the world’s leading oil and gas exploration companies, its CEO said Monday during a Houston briefing for several journalists.

The Norwegian company  has discovered more than 550 million barrels of oil equivalent since the beginning of the year, including finds in offshore Canada,  East Africa and U.S. shale plays.

“In the middle of the last decade we changed our strategy – we decided to go after bigger positions earlier with higher risks, where we could see high impact opportunities,” said CEO Helge Lund, adding that the strategy has led to  investments in significant new acreage in Russia, Australia, the Gulf of Mexico and  Brazil.

Statoil has found more hydrocarbons than any other company so far in 2013, Lund said, focusing on  the Norwegian Continental Shelf, half a dozen other offshore clusters around the world, and unconventional plays in the United States.

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The Norwegian Continental Shelf continues to be bountiful for Statoil, which announced a new find with an estimated 25 to 47 million barrels of oil equivalent at its Asgard field about 120 miles off the Norwegian coast. Statoil first began exploration of Asgard in the mid-1980s.

“Ten years ago, many people thought the Norwegian Continental Shelf was dead,” Lund said. “But Asgard has been one of the biggest fields ever in the North Sea — it’s almost like a dream discovery.”

“Norway has more to give,” Lund said. “We have an ambition of producing as much in 2020 as we do now in Norway, by replacing the declining fields with new discoveries.”

And whereas Statoil once drilled close to existing infrastructure, it is now moving into new places, taking on the higher risks of completely new territories.

“That is a relatively more important part of our portfolio than a few years back,” Lund said, citing as an example Statoil’s investment in offshore Angola. The company is investing in the Angolan pre-salt formations — geological regions that lie beneath layers of salt — hoping they will be as lucrative as  Brazilian pre-salt discoveries.

In August, Statoil announced its third crude oil discovery in the Flemish Pass Basin in Newfoundland, Canada, which, together with its Mizzen discovery north of the Bay of  Nord, is estimated to hold  100-200 million barrels of oil.

Statoil is also targeting natural gas exploration in Tanzania, Lund said, noting that the East African nation’s proximity to Asia, the Middle East and Europe provide it with cost advantages for transporting liquefied natural gas.

And the company has invested in the Marcellus, Eagle Ford and Bakken shales in the United States, as well as the Kai Kos Dehseh and Corner oil sands projects in Alberta, Canada.