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Statoil drops drilling plans off Lofoten

Norwegian oil company Statoil is withdrawing demands to launch oil exploration projects off the scenic Lofoten archipelago in Northern Norway.

Norwegian oil company Statoil is withdrawing demands to launch oil exploration projects off the scenic Lofoten archipelago in Northern Norway. It hopes, however, to start drilling in the Barents Sea instead.

Statoil's desire to search for oil off Lofoten set off screams from environmentalists and local fishermen. They feared a natural catastrophe in the pristine area that serves as one of the country's richest fishing grounds.

Now Statoil is dropping its exploration efforts in the area known as Nordland VI, but instead expects quick approval to drill in two areas in the eastern Barents Sea.

Henrik Carlsen of Statoil told newspaper Aftenposten that Statoil's exploration budget in Norwegian waters is far from used up. "We could have drilled four more wells, if we'd had the permission of the authorities and acquired some partners," Carlsen said.

Now the company has decided to make the Barents Sea a priority. While oil exploration in the Barents Sea was controversial in the Lofoten area Statoil expects political support for its Barents ambitions.

The government is due to decide before Christmas exactly where Statoil will be allowed to launch new drilling projects. Government officials earlier closed off both the Lofoten and Barents Sea areas, but now may reopen the Barents.

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