A North Sea industry expert last night welcomed the findings of the activity survey, which he said reinforced the positive outlook for the oil and gas industry.
Colin Welsh, chief executive of specialist corporate-finance adviser Simmons & Co International, said: “There is now no doubt that the oil and gas industry is indeed helping drive the country out of recession and one of the only sectors which is showing growth and creating and safeguarding jobs.
“This announcement reinforces the positive outlook for the North Sea, with high levels of activity and planned projects moving out to 2015 and beyond, which gives us the best visibility we have seen in a generation.”
The chief executive of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce said the report highlighted the importance of creating the right environment for stimulating exploration and production on the UK Continental Shelf.
Robert Collier added: “The policy debate too often focuses upon maximising tax revenue from the North Sea, rather than ensuring that our fiscal and policy regimes catalyse investment in fully exploiting our hydrocarbon assets for the long term.”
Tom Smith, chairman of public-private partnership Aberdeen City and Shire Economic Future, said: “This is the proof that the right North Sea tax regime is vital to stimulating offshore activity, leading to economic growth and jobs.
“The latest investment figures have already led to unprecedented levels of activity and Aberdeen City and Shire is benefiting hugely from this.”
UK Energy Minister John Hayes said: “The government has been working very hard with the oil and gas industry to create the long-term certainty needed to encourage investment, and this report is clear evidence our efforts are paying off.”
Sir Robert Smith, Liberal Democrat MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, said: “It’s good news and highlights the importance of the Treasury’s constructive engagement, incentivising investment to undo the damage of their earlier tax changes. It’s an important reminder that there is a lot of life left in the North Sea.”
The offshore sector – which will be a key battleground in next year’s independence referendum – will play a central role in lifting the UK out of recession in the coming months and years.
Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said: “The oil and gas sector is vitally important to Scotland’s economy and, with more than half of the value of the North Sea’s oil and gas reserves yet to be extracted – up to 24billion recoverable barrels with a potential wholesale value of £1.5trillion – oil and gas will remain an enormous economic resource for decades to come.”
Mr Hayes said the study inspired more confidence in the future of an industry vital to the UK, providing security of supply and hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country – as well as reducing reliance on costly imports.