NORWAY’S Statoil Exploration has been awarded six licensing options in Ireland’s 2015 Atlantic Margin licensing round.

Statoil will be the operator of four licensing options and partner in two, working with ExxonMobil Exploration and Production across all six, with the companies each holding a 50 per cent stake in each.

The six options awarded to Statoil total about 770,000 hectares in the Porcupine basin in water depths ranging between 1,100 and 3,150 metres.

Work program commitments are limited to 2D and 3D seismic surveys to be acquired during 2016 and 2017.

The analysis of that seismic data will then determine whether the company will seek to convert the licensing options into frontier exploration licences, enabling possible exploration drilling at a later stage.

Senior vice president of exploration in the Northern Hemisphere Erling Vågnes said he was pleased Statoil would be adding to its Irish portfolio, with the company’s major asset in the nation being a 36.5% interest in the Shell-operated Corrib gas field off the country’s north-west coast.

“This supports Statoil`s exploration strategy of early access at scale and enables us to apply the exploration knowledge and experience we have gained globally and specifically on the conjugate margin offshore Newfoundland,” Mr Vågnes said.

The decision was announced as Statoil announced it would not proceed with plans to build a second business centre in Europe, but outside Norway, saying that management and employee representatives had agreed further efficiency improvements were a greater priority.

Statoil chief financial officer Hans Jakob Hegge said the company had investigated the idea thoroughly, initially aiming to make Statoil more competitive by moving selected services in business support and procurement to the new centre – about 180 employees in total.

“The evaluations have been thorough, and after an overall evaluation we choose not to progress this work,” Mr Hegge said.

“We have agreed to intensify our efforts to identify other measures that will enable us to achieve additional rationalisation and cost reductions.”