Statoil (NYSE:STO) is planning an aggressive exploration program in the Gulf of Mexico through 2014 and has a large number of prospects spread across this region. The company is counting on the success of this exploration program to generate long-term production growth.

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Gulf of Mexico
Statoil has interests in 300 exploration areas in the Gulf of Mexico and is active on an operated and non-operated basis here. The company plans to drill between eight and 10 exploration wells and four appraisal wells across its portfolio from 2012 to 2014.

The company reported its first operated discovery in the Gulf at the Logan prospect in October 2011. It has not disclosed an estimate of the original oil in place at Logan, but has called the resources here "significant." Statoil plans to drill an appraisal well at Logan in 2013. Petrobras (NYSE:PBR) and Ecopetrol (NYSE:EC) both own a non-operated interest in the Logan prospect.

Statoil is currently drilling the Bioko prospect in the Gulf, which is located close to the Logan discovery. Conoco Phillips (NYSE:COP) is involved on a non-operated basis and owns 40% of Bioko. The Logan and Bioko prospects are targeting the Paleogene or Lower Tertiary formations.

Another operated well for Statoil in the Gulf is the Kilchurn well located on Green Canyon Block 404. The company started drilling this well in January 2012 and is targeting Miocene formations.

SEE: Oil And Gas Industry Primer

Non Operated
Statoil is involved on a non-operated basis at the Heidelberg prospect operated by Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE:APC). The company reported its first discovery here in 2009 and has drilled several successful appraisal wells since that time.

Exploration activity is much riskier than the development drilling that most investors are accustomed to, and Statoil has been involved with unsuccessful wells in the Gulf. The company owns a 27.5% interest in the Kakuna prospect drilled by Nexen (NYSE:NXY) at a gross cost of $120 million. This well was reported as noncommercial by Nexen in May 2012 and was plugged and abandoned by the company.

SEE: A Guide To Investing In Oil Markets

Other Prospects
Statoil has a number of other prospects in Gulf of Mexico that will be tested through 2014. These include Candy Bars, Demon Star, Coral and Hummer Shallow. The company hasn't disclosed much on these prospects but has referred to them as "high volume."

SEE: What Determines Oil Prices?

The Bottom Line
Statoil is active in many areas of the world in its search for future oil and gas opportunities and has a large number of prospects in the Gulf of Mexico. The company is slowly making progress on its own operated leases while partnering with more experienced operators in other areas of the Gulf of Mexico.

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At the time of writing, Eric Fox did not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article.

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