Norway doubles oil, gas resource estimates for Barents Sea

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway on Tuesday doubled its estimate of undiscovered oil and gas resources in its region of the Arctic Barents Sea as a formerly disputed area bordering Russia was included for the first time, the country’s oil regulator said.

The new forecast by the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) predicted about 2.8 billion standard cubic meters of oil equivalent (17.6 billion barrels) could yet be found in the Barents, up from 1.4 billion seen earlier.

“This figure is naturally associated with some uncertainty. It could turn out to be lower or it could be much higher,” NPD Director General Bente Nyland said in a statement.

While exploration has taken place in some parts of the Barents Sea for more than 30 years, only the Goliat oilfield and the Snoehvit natural gas field have so far begun production.

In 2010, Norway and Russia signed a treaty to end a decades-old conflict over maritime borders, widening the area that can be explored and setting the stage for drilling in the formerly disputed zone to begin in 2017.

About 60 percent of the undiscovered resources in the Norwegian areas of the Barents Sea are expected to be in the form of liquids, and the remainder natural gas, the NPD said.

Reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis, editing by Terje Solsvik