The number of new exploration and appraisal (E&A) wells in the UK North Sea during the first quarter of 2015 was double that of a year ago, new figures show.
According to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc), there were 10 E&A wells started in the latest period, up from only five during the first three months of 2014.
It is a sign of hope for an industry still reeling from a slump in oil prices, but figures for development drilling are not so encouraging.
There were 26 development wells drilled offshore during the first quarter of 2015, compared with 30 a year ago.
Onshore, Decc said one E&P and three development wells were started in the latest period. In the same three months last year, there was three new E&A and two development wells.
Total indigenous UK production – off and onshore – of crude oil and natural gas liquids in the first three months of this year was 5.2% lower, compared with a “relatively high” figure for Q1, 2014, Decc said.
UK North Sea production has been in general decline since the 1990s.