Equinor and BHP have won exploration blocks located off the coast of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The successful auction attracted bids worth an aggregate amount exceeding C$1.3bn ($991.7m).

Equinor secured three exploration parcels in the Jeanne d’Arc basin, offshore Newfoundland, including a participating interest in one block operated by Suncor Energy, and operatorship of the remaining two.

The company will operate NL18-CFB01-14, in which it holds a 70% stake and its partner Husky Energy owning the remaining 30%, and NL18-CFB01-15 (Equinor Canada 60%, Suncor 40%), with a combined area of 412,644ha.

Spread over 142,500ha, NL18-CFB02-01 is 40% owned by Suncor, while Equinor and Husky each hold 30%.

“These exploration investments provide Equinor with an important opportunity to advance our position in a region where we have a well-established exploration portfolio.”

Equinor Exploration executive vice-president Tim Dodson said: “These exploration investments provide Equinor with an important opportunity to advance our position in a region where we have a well-established exploration portfolio while we continue to evaluate and mature our existing exploration assets in the Flemish Pass Basin.”

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In Canada, the firm already operates the 2013 Bay du Nord discovery in the Flemish Pass Basin, and has interests in the producing Hibernia, Terra Nova and Hebron fields.

Meanwhile, BHP has gained operatorship of two exploration licences for blocks 8 and 12 in the offshore Orphan Basin in Eastern Canada. The licences are valid for a term of six years.

BHP placed a $625m bid, including costs necessary for the drilling and seismic work to be carried out as part of the exploration work programmes.

The company expects to invest $140m up to FY2021 to meet initial planned capital expenditure on the exploration work programmes. The licence agreements are expected to be issued next month.

BHP Operations Petroleum president Steve Pastor said: “This frontier opportunity has large oil resource potential which we identified through our Global Petroleum Endowment Study in 2016 and is in a low-risk country, with competitive fiscal terms.

“This opportunity delivers on our exploration focus in conventional petroleum and will leverage our global deepwater development and operational expertise.”