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Norway's Statoil said Thursday it plans to drill 20-25 exploration wells offshore Norway next year in the hope of replicating its recent high hit rate in the region.

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Around two-thirds of the wells will be Statoil-operated, it said, targeting new reserves in both frontier and in mature basin areas.

In the Barents Sea, Statoil said it will continue its current exploration campaign with five to seven new wells, including a well to test the potential of the Hoop area and further drilling around the Johan Castberg discoveries, formerly known as Skrugard and Havis.

"Statoil's exploration success rate on the Norwegian continental shelf has been over 70% the last five years, compared to an industry average of 49%," Gro Haatvedt, Statoil's head of Norwegian exploration, said in a statement.

"This confirms that our exploration strategy is paying off," she said.

Statoil is a partner in the OMV-operated Wisting Central discovery in block PL537 announced in September, which opened a new oil play in the Hoop area.

The planned Apollo well will target the same geological formation as the Wisting Central well, Statoil said.

In the Johan Castberg area, the Skavl prospect is currently being drilled, and will be followed by the Kramsno and Drivis prospects late 2013/early 2014, it said.

"We still believe we can find more oil in the Johan Castberg area to make the field development project more robust. Currently we are evaluating several prospects around Johan Castberg for drilling in 2014," Haatvedt said.

In the North Sea, Statoil said it is planning further exploration around its King Lear discovery and continues its hunt for "high-value" barrels in the greater Utsira High area.

In the giant Johan Sverdrup field and greater Utsira High area, the Geitungen appraisal will be drilled in PL265 and Statoil said it will also drill the Tastaveden prospect in PL628.

In the Norwegian Sea, the focus next year will be to further prepare for deepwater exploration in the Aasta Hansteen area which is planned to start in 2015.

--Robert Perkins,
--Edited by Kevin Saville,