Norwegian gas sales hit a record July high, boosted by maintenance at British North Sea fields and the need to restock gas storage in Europe, which analysts said would deliver strong quarterly earnings for top producer Statoil (STO).
Total gas sales from Norway, Europe's second-largest supplier, rose to 10.6 billion cubic metres from 8.6 bcm in June and were 18 percent above official forecasts, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) said on Friday.
Preliminary gas sales figures were the highest ever recorded for the month of July, it added.
"Gas prices in Europe have remained strong over the past few weeks, supported by maintenance on major UK gas fields, and we expect storage refill across Europe to further support demand and prices," said Danske Bank analyst Anders Holte.
Fellow analyst Teodor Sveen-Nilsen
, of the SpareBank 1 Markets, said the numbers bucked the usual seasonal drop in demand during the summer months.
Holte and Sveen-Nilsen said that higher than expected gas sales volumes would boost Statoil's third
-quarter earnings, with Sparebank 1 raising its forecast for the oil major's operating earnings by 2 percent.
Norway's preliminary crude oil output rose by 3 percent from June to 1.6 million barrels per day but was 7 percent down from July 2016 and slightly below the NPD's forecast.
Shares in Statoil were little changed, down 0.3 percent at 0942 GMT, in line with European energy stocks.
Reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis