"Today, $100 a barrel is the same as $30," Stale Tungesvik told reporters during a briefing Monday, adding that rising costs are making companies picky about the projects they take on.
Tungesvik says producers are chasing after increasingly "demanding" barrels — in the oilsands, deep offshore and in complex shale reservoirs.
"The easy barrel's gone," he said, noting that "sky high" rates to hire drilling rigs are adding to the pinch.
That has meant the Norwegian oil giant and its peers have had to comb through their global portfolios to prioritize which projects deserve the most investment.
"We invest more than ever, but we see that it's much more costly to develop one barrel of oil today than it was earlier," he said.
In Canada, Tungesvik said if it were up to him, he wouldn't want to choose between expanding Statoil's presence in the oilsands and offshore Newfoundland and Labrador.
He's expecting to get some signals from Statoil head office in Stavanger, Norway, around February as to whether the focus will shift.
"That's a possibility. It could be kind of a reprioritization in the worldwide portfolio," said Tungesvik.
"When that will hit us some place in Canada, I'm not sure yet. I'm still fighting for doing both, so that's my kind of position. But there is the bigger picture. There has to be some changes."
Statoil expects to make a final decision on whether to go ahead with its Corner oilsands in March of next year and an expansion to its Leismer property, which currently produces between 15,500 and 18,500 barrels per day, in 2014 at the earliest. Both Corner and Leismer have regulatory approval to produce up to 40,000 barrels per day.
In August, Statoil and partner Husky Energy Inc. (TSX:HSE) announced a huge offshore oil discovery about 500 kilometres northeast of St. John's. With between 300 million and 600 million barrels of recoverable oil, its the company's biggest discovery outside of the Norwegian continental shelf.
It's the company's third find in the Flemish Pass Basin in the North Atlantic and is described as the 12th-largest oil discovery in the world in the past four years.