Hungarian operator MOL is looking to divest its Norwegian upstream assets after disappointing results from exploration and appraisal drilling, Upstream has learned.

Multiple sources with knowledge of the situation said MOL is pulling the plug on its Norway acreage, which it had acquired some six years ago via the takeover of Canada-listed independent Ithaca Energy’s interests there.

These comprise stakes in 14 Norwegian blocks, of which three are operated.

MOL undertook a three-well drilling campaign around the Mandal High area, but these efforts resulted in no commercial volumes being proven.

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Executive vice president Berislav Gaso told Upstream earlier this year that after recently biting dust at its PL617 block offshore Norway, “there are no further drilling plans on this licence”.

According to the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, MOL’s 2/9-6S wildcat encountered a sandstone layer with claystone elements, about 250 metres thick, in the Mandal formation.

The operator subsequently had initial drilling success at the Evra and Iving prospects but was forced to downgrade reserve estimates after appraisal drilling was unsuccessful, noted consultant Westwood Global Energy.

MOL had initially been upbeat about its planned 2021 two-well appraisal campaign on Production Licence PL820S — the same block that hosts the Evra and Irving discoveries — with Gaso telling Upstream that success there “could provide a good basis for the development plan”.

MOL currently holds a 40% operated stake in PL820S on behalf of partners Lundin Energy on 41%, Pandion Energy with 12.5% and Wintershall Dea with 6.5%.

MOL’s media representative in Norway has already departed, while a spokesperson from its Hungary headquarters told Upstream: "MOL is not commenting on future portfolio decisions."

The company’s acquisition of Ithaca Norge, which was completed in July 2015, at the time doubled the size of MOL Group’s exploration portfolio, adding over 600 million barrels of oil-weighted net unrisked prospective resources.

A MOL executive said at the time: “Entering Norway as one of the most investor friendly countries is an important milestone in our E&P Strategy.

"Norway will become a key exploration hub for us in the future and will help us to achieve our goal of becoming an offshore operator in the North Sea.”