Norwegian oil and gas group Statoil (STL.OL: Quote, Profile, Research ) spudded its first gas exploration well as an operator off Venezuela on January 1, the company said on Tuesday. The well drilled by Transocean's (RIG.N: Quote , Profile,Research) Sovereign Explorer rig in block 4 of the Plataforma Deltana area is the first to be sunk by Statoil off Venezuela as an operator. Statoil is also a partner, but not operator, in two other Venezuelan licences.
"This Ballena 1-X well is the first of three which the group is committed to drilling in this region off the east coast of the Latin American country," Statoil said. Statoil is the sole licensee for block 4, which was awarded in February 2003 and covers about 1,435 square kilometres (554 square miles) with water depths of 200-800 metres (656-2,625 feet), the company said. If the first well proves successful, Statoil will consider drilling one to three appraisal wells before possibly declaring a field commercial, it said. Though the company is mainly exploring for gas off Venezuela, finding oil is not ruled out, an official said. "Plataforma is basically a gas prospect but you can never be sure of what you will find until you get down there," Statoil's spokesman for international business Kai Nielsen said.