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Norwegian giant Statoil ASA (STO - Analyst Report) and its partners have encountered oil in Wisting Central prospect in the Hoop Maud basin.
 
The probe 7324/8-1 in PL537, drilled by semi-submersible rig Leiv Eiriksson, about 170 kilometers north-east of Statoil’s Johan Castberg find,  hit upon 50 to 60 meters of net oil pay in Middle to Lower Jurassic reservoir rocks.
 
The discovery, considered the northern most off Norway to date, is projected to hold recoverable resources in the range of 65 million to 165 million barrels of oil as well as 10 billion to 40 billion cubic feet of gas.
 
Upon completion of operations, the partners are likely to drill a second well – 7324/7-1 Wisting Alternative – in the same license. In 2014, Statoil intends to drill two operated wells in the same area — the Atlantis and Apollo prospects in PL615 located around 50 kilometers north of PL537. 
 
Based on nearby similar geological sections, OMV Norge AS believes that the license could have resource upside in the range of 200 million and 500 million barrels of oil equivalent.
 
Austrian explorer OMV, the operator of PL537, holds a stake of 25%. Other partners include – Statoil, Petoro AS, Idemitsu Petroleum Norge AS and Tullow Oil Norge AS with an interest of 15%, 20%, 20% and 20%, respectively. Statoil acquired a stake in PL537 in 2010.
 
The exploration for oil in the Barents holds immense attraction for explorers as it is considered to hold vast gas resources. The development of these resources is likely to be easier given the shortage of available export infrastructure for gas in the isolated region.
 
Statoil carries a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell). However, other Zacks Ranked #1 (Strong Buy) stocks – Range Resources Corp. (RRC - Analyst Report), Whiting Petroleum Corp. (WLL - Snapshot Report)  and Dril-Quip, Inc. (DRQ - Analyst Report) – appear more attractive for the short term.

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