As 2011 comes to a close, it's a great time to look back at what happened to the stocks that interest you. By making sure you know the important things that a company accomplished -- as well as the setbacks it experienced -- you can make a better decision about whether it's a smart investment for your portfolio.

Today, let's take a look at Statoil (NYSE: STO). With all the troubles in Europe, stocks of many companies based in European countries found themselves under pressure, even when they had significant operations outside the Continent. But high oil prices helped the Norwegian oil giant survive a tough year for European stocks. Below, I'll take a closer look at the events that moved shares of Statoil this year.

Stats on Statoil

2011 Year-to-Date Return 12.5%
Market Cap $81.6 billion
1-Year Revenue Growth 21.4%
1-Year Earnings Growth 75.9%
Dividend Yield 4.1%
CAPS Rating *****

Source: S&P Capital IQ.

How did Statoil advance this year?
Statoil isn't the best known Big Oil company, but it's an important player in the world oil market. The Norwegian company is strategically placed near the North Sea's energy reserves, in which the company recently announced a huge new find.

Acquisitions have increasingly played a big role in gaining exposure to promising new exploration and development areas. Statoil acquired Brigham Exploration earlier this year to get into the lucrative Bakken shale play, while Marathon Oil (NYSE: MRO) spent a whopping $3.5 billion to pick up significant assets in the Eagle Ford. Statoil's move follows previous buys of U.S. shale plays, including Marcellus acreage from Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK) and Eagle Ford exposure from SM Energy (NYSE: SM).

But Statoil has also found opportunities on its own. Statoil got some good news earlier this month, as it won a contract for exploration rights to ultra-deepwater fields off the coast of Angola. Among the other winners were Cobalt International Energy (NYSE: CIE) and Total (NYSE: TOT), but if the fields prove as lucrative as similar formations off the Brazilian coast, then there should be plenty of oil for everyone. Statoil recently got an exploration license in Indonesia as well.

Statoil has positioned itself well to benefit from currently high oil prices. As long as the oil market stays favorable, Statoil should be able to buck any negative trends from Europe.

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This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.