By Dominic Chopping

Norway's Statoil ASA (STO) plans a 30% increase in exploration drilling activity this year, as efficiency gains and lower market costs allow its investment budget to stretch further than previous expected.

"Taking advantage of our own improvements and changed market conditions, we have been able to get more wells, more acreage and more seismic data for our exploration investments," said Tim Dodson, executive vice president for exploration at Statoil.

Like many oil producers, state-controlled Statoil has gone through a belt-tightening process, including cutting capital expenditure, re-using infrastructure and increasing drilling efficiency.

The energy group's drilling program for 2017 will include around 30 exploration wells, where it will be operator and partner, compared with 23 in 2016, and the program will be balanced between proven basins and new opportunities, it added.

Between 16 and 18 exploration wells will be completed this year on the Norwegian Continental Shelf, while other sites will include the U.K., U.S. Gulf of Mexico, Indonesia, Suriname, Russia and Turkey, among others.

"The 2017 exploration plans demonstrate our long term commitment to the Norwegian Continental Shelf, while we continue to position the company for global opportunities," Mr. Dobson added. "If everything goes to plan, we will this year have exploration drilling activity in 11 countries on five continents."

-Write to Dominic Chopping at; Twitter: @domchopping @WSJNordics

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 04, 2017 06:01 ET (11:01 GMT)

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