Dana Petroleum says work has begun ahead of schedule on its £1billion Western Isles project.
Drilling on the project at two Northern North Sea fields east of Shetland was not due to begin until the end of the year.
But the company confirmed the Ocean Nomad has spudded the first of its nine wells across the two fields, which are expected to add more than 30,000 barrels of oil a day to Dana’s output once it comes online in 2015.
“Beginning drilling two months ahead of schedule is another very important milestone for the Western Isles Project and Dana,” said managing director Paul Griffin.
“Western Isles is a key project for our future growth ambitions as we aim to significantly grow our production.”
The fields, Harris and Barra, are located 160km east of Shetland and 12km west of the Tern field.
Dana operates a 65% interest in the field, which is estimated to contain more than 45million barrels, with Cieco the remaining 35%.
Construction is under way on the FPSO for the project in China, with the field expected to last up to 15 years.
The project is expected to lead to up to 200 jobs, including about 20 additional posts at Dana in Aberdeen.