(Adds comment from Conoco)
OSLO, Nov 17 (Reuters) - Norwegian oil major Statoil said on Tuesday it will pull out of Alaska’s Chukchi Sea, just weeks after Royal Dutch Shell abandoned the treacherous waters there after spending billions on oil exploration work.
The latest pullback comes as oil companies slash spending on expensive offshore projects during the worst price crash in six years. Businesses, politicians and environmental groups have squared off over drilling in the Arctic, which is widely believed to have large undiscovered oil resources.
Statoil said it will exit 16 leases it operates and its stake in 50 leases operated by ConocoPhillips.
“Since 2008, we have worked to progress our options in Alaska. Solid work has been carried out, but, given the current outlook, we could not support continued efforts to mature these opportunities,” Statoil exploration chief Tim Dodson said in a statement.
When it pulled out in late September, Shell had already spent about $7 billion on exploration in the waters off Alaska so far and it later took a charge of $2.6 billion for leaving the Chukchi Sea, where icebergs can be as large as New York’s Manhattan Island.
ConocoPhillips said on Tuesday its plans for the Chukchi Sea were on hold prior to Statoil’s announcement and they remain on hold.
On its third quarter conference call, Conoco said it plans to exit all deepwater exploration by 2017 as other projects win out in the budgeting process.
Currently, it has deepwater operations in the Gulf of Mexico and offshore Senegal, Angola and Canada. Alaskan waters tend to be shallow. (Reporting by Stine Jacobsen; Additional reporting by Terry Wade in Houston; Editing by Terje Solsvik, Jonathan Oatis and Andrew Hay)