The North Sea could still contain more than £1trillion-worth of oil and gas, Energy Minister Fergus Ewing has said.
He told MSPs that with “significant unharvested reserves” it is possible that as many as 24billion barrels can still be extracted.
He spoke out during a debate on oil and gas, a month after energy firm BP announced a second phase of development at the giant Clair field, west of Shetland.
Mr Ewing said around 39billion barrels had been extracted from the North Sea since large-scale production began in the 1970s.
“Production levels may have peaked in 1999 but the story does not end there, far from it,” he said.
“Here we are 40 years after oil and gas pioneers in the North Sea first started to pump Scotland’s oil, and still it continues to produce 900million barrels every year. The story continues with significant, unharvested reserves remaining.”
He told MSPs that experts had forecast oil and gas production could continue until at least the 2040s, adding that industry body Oil and Gas UK has estimated that between 15billion and 24billion barrels remained.
“This suggests between 30% and 40% of total oil and gas reserves by volume have still to be extracted,” Mr Ewing said.
“At current prices these reserves could have a wholesale value in excess of £1trillion. There is considerable opportunities in the North Sea. The industry will remain an important part of Scottish and UK economies for many decades to come.”
But he stressed “the government must create stable and effective support and incentive structures to make this happen”.
The minister warned: “We can’t take for granted development in the North Sea will happen without appropriate policy support.”
Labour’s Lewis Macdonald stressed the “common interest we have in getting the maximum economic and employment benefits out of this”.
He told MSPs: “Sometimes the oil industry is debated in the wrong way, as if it were a cash cow, as if the oil produced itself and all we had to worry about is which government gets the money, how much it is worth and what will happen when it is gone.
“The reality is that the energy and the revenues will only be maximised if the policy framework is right.”
He also highlighted the importance of safety in the industry, which he described as one of the most dangerous workplaces in the world.
Conservative finance spokesman Gavin Brown said: “There is need to talk up the opportunities for growth and dispel talk of decline. That is something all parties want and something the industry has to get right.”