OSLO, Norway (AP) — StatoilHydro ASA says it has discovered natural gas with a wildcat well drilled in the Barents Sea, about 125 miles north of Norway's northernmost tip.

The national petroleum directorate, which made the announcement Friday, said it was too early to estimate the size of the find but planned to further study the first well in the new Arctic exploration block.

The well was drilled about 90 miles northeast of StatoilHydro's Snoehvit field, which in September became first offshore field to begin production in the frigid waters of the Barents Sea, which Norway shares with Russia.

"It is of course promising that we have discovered gas, but the drilling was performed in a relatively complex formation," StatoilHydro spokeswoman Bente Fotland said. "We therefore need to perform more analyses and evaluations in order to determine the resource potential of the discovery."

Norway, a major oil and natural gas exporter, has been pushing the search for new reserves, especially oil, into the Arctic, hoping for new finds to offset slowly dwindling crude production from fields in the North Sea and the Norwegian Sea.

State-controlled StatoilHydro, based in the western Norwegian city of Stavanger, has a 50 percent stake in the block, which it shares with British-owned Norwegian BG Norge AS, with 30 percent, and Norway Petoro AS, with 20 percent.


On the Net: www.statoilhydro.com; www.npd.no