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China's CNOOC International Ltd has started preparation work for oil and gas exploration in Iceland's offshore Dreki Area, an official with CNOOC's Investor Relations Department said Friday.

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This makes CNOOC the first Chinese upstream company to explore for oil and gas in the Arctic.

Iceland's national energy authority Orkustofnun has granted CNOOC and partners Icelandic Eykon Energy and Norwegian oil and gas company Petoro, the exploration license for the Dreki Area in late January.

The Chinese company has 60% interest in the acreage, with Eykon and Petoro holding 15% and 25% stake respectively, the official noted.

This is the third exploration license awarded by Orkustofnun for its offshore waters and the first to a Chinese company.

CNOOC would not say if it is interested in acquiring more Icelandic offshore exploration licenses in the future when asked.

"As a global upstream company, we are interested in areas with exploration potential," the CNOOC official said.

Eykon Energy Managing Director Gunnlaugur Jonsson has said that the company was keen to apply for other exploration licenses with CNOOC in the future, and also welcomed further co-operation with the Chinese company in both Iceland and Norway, Platts reported previously.

CNOOC has an extensive exploration program this year and plans to drill roughly 155 exploration wells, and acquire approximately 26,700 km of 2-D seismic data and 19,400 sq km of 3-D seismic data.

It has set a net production target of 422 million-435 million barrels of oil equivalent, including approximately 69 million boe as a result of the acquisition of Nexen, for 2014 from domestic and overseas acreages.

--Edited by Irene Tang,