Oslo (AFP) - Norwegian group Statoil has failed to find oil during a summer drilling campaign in the remote Norwegian Arctic, it said on Thursday dampening hopes for an oil and gas boom in these northern waters.
The state-owned company found only a small pocket of uncommercial gas at its third and last exploration well -- known as the Mercury well -- in the Hoop area of the Barents Sea.
Statoil had had high hopes for the area after oil was discovered just 20 kilometres (12 miles) away last year.
Last month the company also failed to find anything more than small quantities of gas at the Atlantic and Apollo wells.
"We are naturally disappointed with the results," Irene Rummelhoff, responsible for the company's Norwegian exploration, said in an statement.
"However, it is important to understand that Hoop is a frontier area of more than 15,000 square kilometres (5,800 square miles) with only six wells completed to date, so we do not have all the answers about the subsurface yet."
Statoil has been the target of an anti-Arctic drilling campaign by the environmental group Greenpeace, which fears oil exploration could harm the environmentally sensitive area.
The Arctic is believed to contain close to a quarter of the world's remaining oil and gas, according to a 2008 estimate by the US Geological Survey.
Harsh weather conditions and the lack of infrastructure in the remote region make oil activities difficult and costly, particularly given recent more accessible discoveries and increased exploitation of shale gas.
Statoil has struggled to repeat its first major Barents Sea discoveries of 2011 and 2012.
Recently, it postponed a decision on operating the Johan Castberg project -- estimated to have between 400 million and 600 million barrels of oil -- after several disappointments in the area and concerns over infrastructure costs.