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By Nerijus Adomaitis
STAVANGER, Norway, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Norwegian oil and gas investments will begin to rise in 2018 after falling for the last four years, helping drive output to near-record highs in the next five years, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) said on Thursday.
By 2022, combined output volume of oil and gas from the country's fields could approach levels last seen in 2004, the highest on record, it added.
Oil and gas would each account for about half of production, the regulator said. The 2004 output was heavily weighted to oil.
"This is very good news, because everybody is talking about a phasing out of the Norwegian petroleum activity and, at least in the next 10 years, we don't see that," NPD Director General Bente Nyland told Reuters.
For production to be maintained at high levels beyond 2025, more profitable resources must be proven, including in major discoveries, she said, adding that this would require an increase in exploration in both mature and frontier areas.
Output from Norway fell between 2004 and 2013 as older fields were gradually depleted and few new resources were available.
Major finds have since been made, including the Johan Sverdrup field, the largest North Sea discovery in decades which will begin to produce in 2019 and be fully developed in 2022.
Norway's combined output of oil and gas is expected to hit 4.4 million barrels per day of oil equivalents in 2022, the NPD said, a rise of 10 percent from the forecast 4 million barrels per day of oil equivalents seen for 2018.
Investments, excluding exploration cost, were expected to rise marginally in 2018 to 122 billion Norwegian crowns ($15.13 billion) and to about 140 billion crowns in each of the years 2019 and 2020, the NPD said.
It had previously expected a turnaround in investment to begin in 2019.
$1 = 8.0614 Norwegian crowns Writing by Terje Solsvik; Editing by Edmund Blair