* Bids $44.5 mln for 13 licences in U.S. Gulf of Mexico
* Says “resets” exploration campaign offshore U.S.
* Wins six licences, including five operated, in UK (Combines British, U.S. strands)
OSLO, March 23 (Reuters) - Norway’s Statoil was the second top bidder for 13 oil exploration leases in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico and won six licences offshore Britain, it said on Thursday, in a sign it may be looking to boost reserves after slashing costs.
“The importance of oil companies’ ability to replenish reserves after several years of spending cuts is increasing as oil prices stabilize, brokerage RBC Capital Markets said in a note on Thursday.”
Statoil bid a total of $44.5 million for 13 licences in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, coming second only to Shell and ahead of Hess Corp, Chevron and Exxon, the latest auction results showed.
The company said in a separate statement it had won five new operated licences in the northern North Sea and one in the frontier area west of Scotland, committing to drill at least three wells.
Statoil said its bids for licences in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico meant that the company was “resetting” its exploration campaign there, two months after saying it was considering whether to end it due to poor results.
“We continue to believe in the potential of the Gulf of Mexico,” Statoil’s Tore Loeseth, head of exploration in the U.S. and Mexico, said in a statement.
Statoil’s spokesman said the company believed it could be more successful based on the analysis of the seismic data and the lessons from the previous drilling.
The U.S. auctions results are subject to a 90-days formal review and final approval, with no commitment to drill.
Statoil, however, would have to hand back its licences if it fails to spud wells in 5-10 years, depending on water depths.
The company expected its offshore U.S. production to nearly double by 2020 from about 60,000 barrels per day in 2016.
The tender in Britain, which received bids last year, attracted the lowest interest in 14 years, reflecting the drop in appetite for finding new oil in the North Sea due to high costs and weak oil prices.
Brent crude price were trading at over $50 a barrel most of the time in 2017, up from over $40 a barrel in 2016. (Reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis, editing Terje Solsvik and David Evans)