Norwegian oil firm Statoil and partners Eni and Petoro have agreed to further exploration drilling, which will include four new prospects in the Skrugard area of the Norwegian Barents Sea.

The oil major intends to follow up its Skrugard and Havis discoveries, as well as to test further upside potential in the Barents Sea area, including production licenses PL532 and PL608.

"Statoil is operator for both licenses with a 50% stake in each, with partners Eni and Petoro holding 30% and 20% respective interests."

Knut Harald Nygård, Statoil vice president for exploration in the Skrugard area, said the company has made two substantial oil discoveries in PL532, proving 400 to 600 million barrels of recoverable oil in less than a year.

"We have also drilled a successful appraisal well on Skrugard confirming volume estimates and collecting data for field development planning," said Nygård.

"We see good opportunities for further upside in the area, and have identified four new interesting prospects. In some of these we have observed flat spots of the same type as in the Skrugard and Havis discoveries."

West Hercules drilling rig will be winterised and will drill the prospects back to back. The campaign will start off with drilling of the Nunatak prospect in PL532 in December 2012, to be followed by a probe at Skavl in the same license.

The rig will then move to drill the Iskrystall prospect in adjacent PL608, while Statoil will announce the fourth prospect at a later stage.

The exploration campaign is expected to start in late 2012, with drilling for all four prospects scheduled to be completed by late 2013.

Statoil is operator for both licenses with a 50% stake in each, with partners Eni and Petoro holding 30% and 20% respective interests in the permits.