Statoil says it has discovered light, high-quality oil in the Flemish Pass basin 500 kilometres northeast of St. John’s, raising hopes for an as-yet-untapped part of the Newfoundland offshore.

“It is positive that we have found oil in this second major structure in the Flemish area,” Geir Richardsen, Statoil’s vice-president of exploration, told CBC News.

“It is something that confirms the ideas we’ve had.”

‘New basins with oil are hard to come by … So it’s a great day.’—Statoil’s Geir Richardsen

In 2009, Statoil found oil at Mizzen, 10 kilometres from the Harpoon well that produced the positive results announced Wednesday.

Last year, Statoil confirmed that Mizzen contained between 100 million and 200 million barrels of recoverable oil.

“We found new oil in a new structure in the same basin as Mizzen,” Richardsen said. “That’s a good result for us.”

The company won’t provide any details on the volume of oil found at Harpoon.

But Richardsen said it is lighter, and better quality, than what was discovered at Mizzen. That’s important, because it is easier to produce.

Possibility of opening new frontier

To date, all producing fields in the Newfoundland offshore are located in the shallow-water Jeanne d’Arc basin.

The deeper-water Flemish Pass is a possible new frontier for the East Coast industry.

Statoil used the West Aquarius deepwater drilling rig for exploration activities at its Harpoon prospect. Statoil used the West Aquarius deepwater drilling rig for exploration activities at its Harpoon prospect. (CNW Group/Statoil Canada Limited)“New basins with oil are hard to come by,” Richardsen said. “Jeanne d’Arc has been the focus of most exploration wells. That’s where the production is. That’s where our production is. So new areas, [such] as this Flemish area, which has proved to contain oil, is important, for us in Canada and globally. So it’s a great day.”

Richardsen said the Harpoon find is a step in the right direction towards Statoil’s long-held goal of becoming a producing operator off Newfoundland.

“For us, the East Coast is an important place,” he said.

Statoil said the Harpoon discovery was drilled by the semi-submersible rig West Aquarius, in approximately 1,100 metres of water.

The Norwegian company plans a three-well exploration program on Canada’s East Coast for 2013.

Statoil is currently drilling its Federation prospect in the Jeanne d’Arc basin. It will then return to the Flemish Pass region to drill the Bay du Nord prospect, located southwest of the Harpoon and Mizzen discoveries.

Statoil is the operator of Harpoon and Mizzen, with a 65 per cent interest. Husky Energy holds the other 35 per cent.