Statoil ASA is just getting started in its quest to secure onshore and offshore opportunities in North America, CEO Helge Lund said last week.

Lund, who spoke last week at IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates' (CERA) CERAWeek 2010 in Houston, said with infrastructure in place and low political risks compared with emerging global economies, North America is a solid place to do business.

"I spent part of the day [last] Tuesday with my Houston team," Lund said. "It was encouraging to see what we started back in 2002, with a few Norwegians, to have developed into a vibrant, competitive workforce of around 300 people in Houston. Our portfolio only reinforced the clear reason to develop in the U.S."

Lund's time in Houston "also made me reflect how the latest developments in the energy scene really have strengthened this country's position to shape a more balanced energy future...Compared to Europe, your starting point is excellent...and we want to capitalize on this position."

The CEO joined Statoil in 2004 as the company began growing outside of Norway but "additional growth potential was not sufficient to back up our ambitions." So the company researched the best and most efficient places to invest, and it all came back to North America.

"The U.S. is in fact the country in the world where we have made the most investments in the last five years," said the CEO. "The easy barrels are long gone or extremely expensive to access. In the higher remaining resource potential, there are less chances open to IOCs [international oil companies] or the terms offer investors limited upside."

Statoil now is the third biggest leaseholder in the deepwater of the Gulf of Mexico. In late 2008 the company paid Chesapeake Energy Corp. $3.38 billion to gain a stake in the Marcellus Shale (see NGI, Nov. 17, 2008). It has holdings in midstream markets and stakes in Canada's oilsands. And it's a player in domestic liquefied natural gas markets (see NGI, Dec. 7, 2009).

"On this basis we will continue to look for opportunities to continue to expand our industrial footprint in the U.S.," said Lund.

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