Norwegian state-controlled oil company StatoilHydro ASA (NYSE:STO), like virtually all its exploration and production peers, took a punch in the nose from plummeting oil prices in recent quarters. But the company is also gaining attention for feats of exploration bravado in some of the world's most remote areas.

In the most recent quarter, StatoilHydro saw its earnings slide to 2 billion Norwegian kroner ($298 million) versus 6.2 billion kroner for the year-ago quarter. The obvious culprit in the steep slide was the price of crude oil, which dropped from $147 per barrel in July to the current price below $40.

Unlike many of the world's other major oil companies, Statoil managed to increase its oil and natural gas production to about 1.925 million barrels of oil equivalent per day in 2008, or about 5% above the prior year. The negative side of the equation is that, since oil is denominated in U.S. dollars, the buck's strengthening versus the kroner led to a higher effective tax rate for the company.

Beyond its quarterly results, Statoil is moving progressively farther around the world in its quest for oil and gas. During 2008, the company gained access to 20 new exploration licenses in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, Brazil, Canada, and the Faroe Islands. And just a week ago, The Wall Street Journal described the company's most impressive feat in the Arctic Circle, where it pumps natural gas from beneath the frigid waters of the Barents Sea, liquefies it, and exports it around the world.  

The Arctic region may contain as much as one-fifth of the world's undiscovered oil and gas. With places like the Gulf of Mexico, the North Sea, and the Middle East garnering most of the industry's attention during past decades, northern climes such as the Arctic, Russia, and Alaska continue to generate increasing interest from such oil companies as Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE:RDS-A), BP (NYSE:BP), Total (NYSE:TOT), and ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM).

Given StatoilHydro's forward P/E of less than 7, its demonstrated technological capabilities, and its 4% forward annual dividend, I'm keeping a close eye on the company. While it might take a while for crude oil and natural gas prices to move to higher levels, Foolish patience might just be worth the wait. 

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