Equinor posted a sharp rise in profit in the first quarter of this year as revenues climbed on the back of improved commodity prices.

The oil and gas market was significantly hit from early 2020 due to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, which crimped global demand and sent commodity prices plunging.

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Norwegian state-controlled giant Equinor turned in a net profit for the first three months of this year of $1.85 billion, well ahead of the loss of $705 million in the comparable period a year earlier, the end of which saw the pandemic really take hold.

The net loss for last year's fourth quarter was $2.42 billion.

Revenues in the most recent quarter hit $15.55 billion, up from $15.13 billion a year earlier and $11.75 billion in last year's final period.

The main reason was a rise in the average realised price of gas and liquids as global demand started to recover from the lows seen after the pandemic swept around the world in the first half of 2020.

Equinor's equity production in the first quarter of this year actually slipped, to 2.17 million barrels of oil equivalent per day from 2.23 million boepd in the first quarter of 2020.

This was mainly due to the shutdown at its Hammerfest LNG facility in Melkoya, northern Norway in September after a fire. The liquefied natural gas plant remains shut and is not set to reopen until late March next year.

Output was also down in the most recent quarter due to maintenance at the Peregrino oilfield offshore Brazil.

However, partially offsetting these falls was increased output from the US onshore and also from the giant Johan Sverdrup oilfield offshore Norway and the Snorre Expansion scheme, also off Norway.

Equinor's renewable energy equity production slipped in the first quarter to 450 gigawatt hours from 558GWh in the comparable period a year earlier, "impacted by lower winds than expected for the season", it said.

The renewable energy segment performed strongly, however, and was bolstered by a $1.4 billion financial gain from farm-downs in offshore wind assets.

Equinor expects equity production for the full year to be around 2% lower than 2020, with scheduled maintenance set to chop around 50,000 boepd from its output for 2021.

Organic capital expenditure is estimated at between $9 billion and $10 billion per annum this year and next.

Total exploration expenditure for this year is expected to be around $900 million, excluding signature bonuses, accruals and field development costs.