LONDON -- The shares of Xcite Energy (LSE:XEL) surged 13 pence, or 12%, to 122 pence during early London trade this morning after the oil explorer said its Bentley field might contain 909 million barrels of oil.

Xcite, which drilled its first well within the North Sea field during 2008, had last year said its Bentley operation carried oil in the region of 550 million barrels.

The company also said this morning that, on a so-called 'P3' basis, which includes proved, probable as well as possible reserves, the net present value of the field using a 10% discount rate may be $2.8 billion.

Xcite said the calculations were based on an initial 35-year production horizon and a peak production rate of 57,000 barrels of oil a day.

Rupert Cole, Xcite's chief executive, said:

I am very pleased to report this significant increase in both reserves and value attributable to our assets, which supports our long-held belief in the potential of the Bentley field.

We have now moved Bentley from being a significant asset to one of the major strategic assets in the North Sea, which will be an important source of future employment and economic contribution to the U.K. for many years to come.

Cole also claimed now was the "right time" to evaluate suitable partners for developing the Bentley field further.

Last month, Xcite issued full-year results that showed sales of £13 million following the production and sale of 149,000 barrels of oil. The annual figures also showed a small accounting loss, some £128 million spent on exploration and development activities, as well as a year-end cash balance of £25 million.

Of course, whether this morning's reserves update, the share-price reaction and the general outlook for the oil sector combine to make Xcite a buy is something only you can decide.

Indeed, you may wish to consult this free Motley Fool report, which explains the factors you need to consider -- and the risks you might encounter -- when evaluating oil and gas explorers.

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Maynard Paton has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.