New estimates of how much oil and gas can be extracted from the UK North Sea show it may not reach its potential.
A report from Aberdeen University says that, on current trends, 16.8billion barrels of oil equivalent are likely be produced over the next 30 years.
This is short of a 20billion barrel estimate by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) despite a raft of incentives from the UK Government since its surprise tax grab in the 2011 Budget.
While the tax breaks have helped, the report says that, for production to reach its full potential there needs to be more exploration, more investment to boost existing projects and fewer unplanned shutdowns of platforms.
There also needs to be easier access to platforms and infrastructure by third-party operators, says the report, compiled by Alex Kemp, professor of petroleum economics at Aberdeen University, and colleague Linda Stephen.
They add: “Field investment is currently extremely high, with the estimated total for 2012 being £11.5billion.
“In a few years it will fall substantially unless more new projects are brought forwards. The incentivisation of exploration, speedier and more efficient access to infrastructure and reduced unplanned downtime can all play major roles in enhancing the viability of the sector.”