Exploration activity on the UK continental shelf (UKCS) remained high last year, according to figures released yesterday by Deloitte.
The outlook for this year is not so positive, however.
Deloitte’s north-west Europe review noted that 121 exploration and appraisal wells were spudded in the UK last year; just two fewer than in 2007.
Of these wells, 46% were exploration and 54% appraisal related.
The central North Sea was the most active region last year, containing 27% of the spuds, however, drilling has become more evenly spread throughout the UKCS since 2007, when 47% of new spuds were located in this sector.
The southern North Sea, northern North Sea and the Moray Firth all experienced an increase in new well spuds last year, accounting for 67% of wells in the UK.
Graham Hollis, audit partner in the energy, infrastructure and utilities group of Deloitte in Aberdeen, said that, while the contracting economic conditions had failed to impact significantly on oil and gas exploration in the North Sea in 2008, the year ahead might yield a different result.
He added: “As we might expect, given the combination of the dramatic fall in oil prices and the deteriorating credit conditions, the fourth quarter of 2008 saw the fewest number of new spuds: 29% down on the third quarter and the fewest since the second quarter of 2007.
“This is indicative of companies reassessing their priorities.
“Looking ahead, cash flow, boosting stakeholder confidence, reducing costs and minimising risks will be the key priorities for many oil and gas companies in 2009 and this will undoubtedly impact on some activities, including drilling.”