Wires

UPDATE 1-Equinor Q3 profit drops more than expected on low gas sales

OSLO, Oct 24 (Reuters) - Norway's Equinor reported a bigger-than-expected drop in its third-quarter profit on Thursday, dented by a significant decline in the volume and price of natural gas sold to Europe.

Adjusted earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) fell to $2.59 billion in the third quarter from $4.84 billion during the same period last year. A poll of 23 analysts compiled by Equinor had expected adjusted EBIT to come in at $2.69 billion.

"We maintain strong cost and capital discipline, but our results are affected by lower commodity prices in the quarter. In addition, we have decided to use our flexibility to defer gas production to periods with higher expected prices," Equinor's Chief Executive Eldar Saetre said.

Equinor's giant Johan Svedrup oil field, which started in early October, has already achieved a daily production above 200,000 barrels, and will have a capacity of well above 300,000 barrels by the end of November.

The company said it marked impairment charges of $2.79 billion, of which $2.24 billion is related to its onshore shale oil and gas assets in North America due to "more cautious price assumptions."

Equinor's total equity oil and gas production stood at 1.9 million barrels of oil equivalent per day in the third quarter, down 8% from the same period in 2018, while gas production off Norway fell by 17% over the same period. (Reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis, editing by Terje Solsvik and Sherry Jacob-Phillips)