Cajun Express - Photo Credit Chevron/Statoil
Cajun Express – Photo Credit Chevron/Statoil

Norwegian oil and gas company Statoil has been awarded a total of 15 leases in the U.S. Gulf Coast, after it became clear that it was the highest bidder in a recent lease sale by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the company has announced in a statement. With the latest leases, Statoil will operate a total of more than 340 leases in the Gulf of Mexico, thus cementing its position as an operation leader in the area.

According to Erik Finnstrom, senior vice president of exploration for Statoil in North America, the company was satisfied with the outcome of the lease sale and was certain that the addition would lead to an expansion of the company's exploration strategy in the area. The leases are subject to review and final approval by the BOEM within the next 90 days. Statoil, which is currently the largest offshore operator globally, is already a partner in three producing fields and seven fields under development in the Gulf of Mexico, including Stampede, Vito, Julia and its own Logan discovery.

Statoil is planning to increase its investment in North America and the latest lease additions are further proof of the fact that the Gulf of Mexico is of major strategic importance to the company, Finnstrom went on. He announced that Walker Ridge 271 was a top priority for

Statoil and being awarded the lease was an achievement for the company. The operator hopes to drill a further two or three wells over the next year and plans to participate in another one or two wells as partner.

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Meanwhile, Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) has announced that Statoil has been fined $5.5 million over the incident at the Gullfaks C platform in the North Sea in May 2010. The company was found guilty of negligence and violations of petroleum laws, according to the Norwegian News in English website. The problem started when a hole occurred in a pipe, through which liquids from a well leaked into the formation it was being pumped from. As a result, hydrocarbons streamed into the well, forming gas that reached the platform. Inspectors warned that this could have led to an explosion.

Regulators ruled that Statoil had breached the law by failing to ensure an adequate basis from which to make decisions during the planning and drilling stages at Gullfaks C. They also found that Statoil had failed to act with competence during the planning and did not carry out a proper risk analysis of the drilling operation, resulting in inadequate planning.

According to Frederic Hauge of the environmental organization Bellona, who first alerted the police to the incident, accusing Statoil of taking environmental and personnel safety risks, the fine was "very large in Norwegian context," the website reported, citing NRK.