* May return to prospects in 2015
* Could add NOK 1-3 to value of Statoil shares
* Biggest Statoil-operated find outside Norway
* Shares up 1.2 crowns
By Balazs Koranyi and Henrik Stolen
OSLO, Sept 26 (Reuters) - Norway’s Statoil ASA has made its biggest oil discovery beyond Norway in the seas off Canada’s East Coast and said the region could become a major oil producer after 2020.
The latest find, in the Bay du Nord field of the Atlantic Ocean, northeast of the city of St. John’s, Newfoundland, is near two previous Statoil discoveries. Statoil said it expects to return to the field in 2015 with more wells as it has already identified more potential for oil.
In a venture with Canadian partner Husky Energy Inc , state-controlled Statoil said it had found between 300 million and 600 million barrels of recoverable oil about 500 kilometres (300 miles) off the coast of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
“This is the biggest Statoil-operated oil discovery outside Norway, so it’s a pretty big day for us,” Statoil exploration chief Tim Dodson said on Thursday.
There are currently three major oil projects off the Newfoundland coast: Hibernia, Terra Nova and White Rose. All are located in the Jeanne d’Arc Basin, 350km (200 miles) southeast of St John’s. In total, they produced around 197,000 barrels per day last year, and a fourth development, Hebron, is scheduled to start operating in 2017.
While the latest Statoil find is a significant discovery for offshore Canada, it pales in comparison with output from the country’s oil sands, in Alberta, where production is forecast to hit 5.2 million barrels a day by 2030.
Statoil, once a domestic focused explorer, has expanded rapidly over the past decade and recently made big discoveries in Brazil, Tanzania, the North Sea and the Norwegian Arctic.
The Bay du Nord discovery is in addition to the nearby Mizzen find, which could contain up to 200 million barrels of recoverable oil, and the Harpoon discovery, which still needs to be evaluated.
Analysts said the latest discovery could add between 1 and 3 crowns to the Statoil share price, which would raise the company’s market value by between $530 million and $1.59 billion.
“This is an area with relatively favorable tax conditions and although there is deep water, I think this might be worth about 4 dollars per barrel and in excess of 2 Norwegian crowns per Statoil share,” said Anne Gjoeen, an oil sector analyst at Handelsbanken.
Analysts at Deutsche Bank valued the discovery at 3 crowns a share with potential upside.
The stock was up 1.2 crowns, or 0.9 percent, at 138.0 at 0931 GMT, outperforming a 0.1 percent fall in the European oil and gas sector.
The stock has gained 6 percent over the past month, the most among European majors, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Statoil will need more time to evaluate the discovery and its efforts could be slowed by ice conditions in the area. “Rig availability is an issue here as there are only certain rigs which can perform this activity,” Dodson said.
Icebergs are an added difficulty, and Statoil must be prepared to locate and tow them away from drilling platforms.
Dodson added that once Statoil returns, it would drill two or three wells and given rig availability that may not happen before 2015. The company’s licences are spread over 8,500 square kilometres in an area called the Flemish Pass, where Statoil is the only operator.
“The Flemish Pass has the potential to become a core producing area for Statoil post-2020,” Dodson added.
The company aims to lift its daily output to more than 2.5 million barrels of oil equivalents a day by 2020 from a current 2 million.
Statoil operates all three of the Canadian licences and holds a 65 percent stake, while Husky Energy Inc has a 35 percent interest.
“Together, these discoveries confirm significant opportunity in the Flemish Pass Basin and could be developed in tandem. Husky and Statoil will continue to evaluate the potential for commercial development of the discovered resources,” Husky Energy said in a statement.
Husky’s shares were last up more than 1 percent at C$30.12 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.