FILE – The Ekofisk oil field off the North Sea in Norway, Oct. 24, 2019. Norway’s exports have reached a record in July that is driven mainly by higher natural gas prices. The Scandinavian country’s statistics agency on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022 said Norwegian exports reached 229 billion kroner ($24 billion) last month. Norway is a major producer of offshore oil and gas. (Carina Johansen/NTB Scanpix via AP)

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Norway’s exports reached a record in July, driven mainly by natural gas prices that have soared since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Scandinavian country’s statistics agency on Monday said Norwegian exports reached 229 billion kroner ($24 billion) last month, 0.4% higher than the previous record set in March this year.

Norway’s trade surplus of 153.2 billion kroner ($15.8 billion) also was the highest on record.

Norway, a major producer of offshore oil and gas, has seen energy exports surge as European countries scramble to find alternatives to Russian energy in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Since the invasion, the EU has approved bans on Russian coal and most oil to take effect later this year, but it did not include Russian natural gas because the 27-nation bloc depends on gas to power factories, generate electricity and heat homes.

However, Russian President Vladimir Putin has weaponized gas exports to pressure the bloc into reducing its sanctions over the war in Ukraine or to push other political aims. The EU has been left scrambling to fill gas storage ahead of winter, when demand rises and utility companies draw down their reserves to keep homes warm and power plants running.

Statistics Norway said natural gas exports reached 128 billion kroner ($13.2 billion) in July, more than four times higher than in the same month last year.

Jon Olav Roerhus, senior adviser for external trade at Statistics Norway, said reductions in Russian gas deliveries to Europe through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline contributed to soaring gas prices last month, which were “the main reason for the exceptionally high export value we are now experiencing.”

At a one-day meeting of the five Nordic leaders in Oslo, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said: “We must phase out Russian gas as soon as possible.” She said Europe is “facing a challenging fall.”

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said the Nordic countries also should focus on renewable energies, including wind and solar.

“We all struggle with increased energy prices,” said Gahr Støre, whose country and Iceland are not EU members.

“As we enter the cold winter, our populations have to understand what is at stake,” Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin.

Higher fish and metals exports also contributed to Norway’s surge in exports.

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