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THE NEW YORK TIMES: Shell Makes Natural Gas Find Off Norway: “The well was drilled by the Norwegian branch of Royal Dutch/Shell Group of Companies…” ( Posted 24 May 05




OSLO, Norway (AP) -- A wildcat exploration well drilled in the Norwegian Sea has made a promising natural gas strike, although it was too early to say how large, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate announced Monday.


The well was drilled by the Norwegian branch of Royal Dutch/Shell Group of Companies at its Onyx prospect off western Norway.


''The new discovery in the Norwegian Sea is very encouraging and proves that the Norwegian continental shelf has great potential for new and significant finds. This could be an important discovery, and will lead to renewed interest in the area,'' Norwegian Oil Minister Thorhild Widvey said in a news release.


Norway is the world's third largest oil exporter, after Saudi Arabia and Russia, with a capacity of about 3.2 million barrels per day. It is also a major supplier of natural gas to continental Europe and Britain, and is gearing up to supply the United States.


A directorate statement said tests of the well, drilled to a depth of 5,052 meters (16,575 feet) below sea level, indicated that the reservoir could contain up to 60 billion cubic meters (2.1 trillion cubic feet) of natural gas.


However, it said more wells are needed to determine the scope of the find, and whether it could be developed as a separate field or as a satellite of an existing offshore field.


''There are indications that we are dealing with a significant find,'' said Rien Herber, exploration director for Shell Exploration and Production in Europe. ''We intend to follow up this discovery with an accelerated program of appraisal and exploration in 2006.''


Although a potentially major find in recent years off Norway, it is small compared to the Ormen Lange field found in 1997 in the same region, with estimated reserves of 375 billion cubic meters (13.25 trillion cubic feet) of natural gas.


The Onyx field is about 200 kilometers (125 miles) northwest of the city of Kristiansund, on Norway's midwestern coast.


Shell, with a 30 percent stake, drilled the well on behalf of its project partners, the Norwegian government petroleum investment group Petoro, with 30 percent, the Norwegian oil company Statoil ASA and French oil company Total SA, each with 20 percent.


Shares of Shell Transport and Trading Co., which together with Royal Dutch Petroleum comprises the Royal Dutch/Shell Group of Companies, rose 61 cents to close at $52.53 in Monday trading on the New York Stock Exchange.


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