Green light for Statoil's Atlantis probe

Atantis aim: Transocean Spitsbegen lined up for Barents probe

The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate has given Statoil the go-ahead for a further wildcat in the frontier Hoop area of the Barents Sea where environmentalists have tried to block drilling work.

The 7325/1 probe targeting the Atlantis prospect in Statoil-operated production licence 615 will be drilled by Transocean Spitsbergen, which also spudded the initial well of the controversial three-well campaign at Apollo last month.

The primary target for the Atlantis well is the Triassic Kobbe formation, with secondary targets in the Klappmyss and Snadd formations.

The probe is expected to take 44 days to reach an estimated total depth of 2799 metres after it spuds later this month once Apollo, which was excepted to take a month, is finished drilling.

Statoil operates PL615 with a 35% stake, along with partners US oil major ConocoPhillips (25%), Austria's OMV (20%) and Norway's Petoro (20%).

The Transocean Spitsbergen was boarded by environmental activists around three weeks ago and later blocked by a Greenpeace vessel before both were removed by Norwegian authorities.

The group fears a potential oil spill from drilling in the eco-sensitive play could reach the Bear Island nature reserve farther north and also encroach on the Arctic ice edge.

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