Energy giant BP said yesterday it was to sell off its stakes in most of the company’s oil and gas operations south of the border.
But the firm said there was no intention for disposals among its Scottish assets, which a spokesman said were “core” to BP’s future.
The interests being sold are the Wytch Farm onshore oil field in Dorset and all of BP’s operated gas fields in the southern North Sea, including associated pipeline infrastructure and the Dimlington terminal.
BP said it anticipated the 250 staff affected would transfer to the new buyers.
Industry sources expect the assets to sell for more than £700million.
Potential new owners have not been named by BP, but the stakes being offloaded are already attracting a number of interested parties.
The spokesman said the sale was not directly related to the need to raise money to cover costs of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
He said the disposal would allow the group to focus resources and investment on its central North Sea, northern North Sea, west of Shetland and Norway assets and on successful delivery of new major projects.
Trevor Garlick, regional president with BP North Sea, said: “The North Sea is a significant business for BP and we will be investing here at the highest level for more than 10 years, with four major new field development projects under way in the UK and two in Norway. The assets we intend to divest are of high value, but find it difficult to compete for capital and resource within our North Sea portfolio. We believe they will attract earlier investment and be of greater value to new owners.
“Ensuring continued safe operation of these assets will continue to be our priority as we seek potential purchasers and support our staff through the transition process which will follow.”
BP aims to complete the sales around the end of this year. The company invested some £1.5billion of capital in the North Sea during 2010 and plans to invest some £12billion in total over the next five years. To deliver its North Sea plans, BP is looking to recruit around 150 engineers annually.
It is determined to invest heavily to keep North Sea production above the 300,000 barrels-a-day mark, at least until 2020. For example, last summer BP said it was moving ahead with plans for the phase two development of the giant Clair field west of Shetland.
Clair was one of the largest undeveloped reservoirs in the UK continental shelf before production started in February 2005. Phase one produces about 50,000 barrels of oil daily. There is thought to be more than 4billion barrels still in the Clair area.
Phase two, known as Clair Ridge, is expected to come on stream by 2016. Daily output from this phase is expected to reach 120,000 barrels.
BP has its North Sea headquarters at Dyce, Aberdeen.