Equinor and partners Vaar Energi and Petoro have struck oil at an exploration well near the Johan Castberg field offshore Norway.

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The discovery in the Barents Sea is significant as Equinor and other operators have had difficulty unlocking new finds in the northerly region.

Recoverable resources at the Isfjell discovery are estimated at between 5 million and 8 million cubic metres of recoverable oil, which equates to between 31 million and 50 million barrels of oil.

The discovery will further strengthen profitability for Equinor's Johan Castberg field, which is due to come off plateau production three or four years after production start in 2023.

It has also strengthened Equinor's belief that it can find more oil in the Barents Sea — a region that has proved challenging for the company and peers in terms of exploration success.

“This discovery strengthens our belief in the opportunities that exist, not least around the Castberg, Wisting, Snohvit and Goliat areas,” said Nick Ashton, Equinor’s vice president for exploration in Norway.

The well was drilled about 10 kilometres south-west from the 7220/8-1 well on the Johan Castberg field, and 210 kilometres north-west of Hammerfest.

The well struck 109 metres of oil in the Sto and Nordmela formations.

The top reservoir was encountered at a vertical depth of 1788 metres below sea level.

The expected gas cap was not encountered in the well.

The well was not formation tested, but extensive data acquisition and sampling took place.

Further development of the discovery towards the planned infrastructure for the Johan Castberg field will be considered at a later stage.

"The proven resources may thus generate important additional value and tax revenues for [Norwegian] society from the Johan Castberg field," Equinor said.

This is the eleventh exploration well in production licence 532. The licence was awarded in the 20th licensing round in 2009.

The well was drilled to a vertical depth of 2080 metres below sea level and completed in the Tubaaen formation from the Early Jurassic period in 351 metres of water. The well has now been permanently plugged and abandoned.

Well 7220/7-4 was drilled by the Transocean Enabler drilling rig, which will now return to and continue drilling on the Equinor-operated Johan Castberg field.

Equinor also announced today that it had awarded PGS and Shearwater GeoServices framework agreements for 4D towed streamer seismic acquisition on the Norwegian continental shelf.

The agreements have a total estimated value of around Nkr700 million ($82.6 million).