Three of the 2005 wells are due to be drilled in the Barents Sea, seven to nine in the Norwegian Sea and nine to 11 in the North Sea.
Statoil has an exploration budget of NOK 1.8 billion for next year, compared with roughly NOK 1.1 billion in 2004.
Seven of the planned wells are defined as the "impact" type, characterized by high risk but high gain because substantial volumes could be proven.
These include all three of the Barents Sea wells, three in the Norwegian Sea and one in the North Sea.
"These impact wells mean we face a very exciting year," says Tim Dodson, senior vice president for exploration in Exploration & Production Norway.
"They could generate really large volumes as the basis for new stand-alone developments. If the likelihood of a discovery remains moderate, the upside potential is high."
He emphasizes that even were the wells to be drilled next year to prove unsuccessful, the Norwegian continental shelf would still offer big opportunities.
Statoil calculates that some 15 billion barrels of oil equivalent remain to be discovered in the Norwegian Sea, eight billion in the Barents Sea and five billion in the North Sea.
"We estimate that roughly two-thirds of remaining Norwegian Sea resources are gas," reports Mr. Dodson. "But we're just as likely to find oil as gas in the Barents Sea."
Statoil has been involved in eight exploration wells this year, including five as operator. Five of the total have yielded discoveries.
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