ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Norwegian energy giant Equinor has hired a drilling rig to look for more oil off the coast of Newfoundland.

Equinor says the Hercules semi-submersible will begin exploring next year in the Flemish Pass Basin, about 500 kilometres east of St. John's.

The company said in May it was pausing its plans to develop the Bay du Nord offshore oil project in the same area, casting a pall over the future of oil and gas in the province.

At the time, Equinor said it was still assessing plans to keep exploring for more oil in that region of the North Atlantic.

The company said today the drilling is part of its plans to "optimize" the Bay du Nord project and make it more financially feasible.

Newfoundland and Labrador's offshore oil regulator said earlier this year that about 979 million barrels of recoverable oil had been discovered in the Bay du Nord area.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 14, 2023.

The Canadian Press