The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) has raised its long-term outlook for North Sea production by 2.8billion barrels of oil equivalent.
The regulator now estimates that 11.7billion barrels will be pumped out between 2016 and 2050.
The new total is a huge improvement on projections made before the implementation of Sir Ian Wood’s 2014 report on maximising recovery from the UKCS.
OGA came up with the new projection using data collected from operators for its latest stewardship survey.
The projections have been submitted to the Office for Budget Responsibility ahead of the Chancellor’s Spring Statement on March 13.
The report also showed North Sea production totalled 1.63million barrels per day in 2017, the same as in 2016, despite the closure of the Forties pipeline system for three weeks in December.
Operating costs increased by 3% last year, while capital expenditure fell significantly. Decommissioning costs climbed 4% and are expected to remain flat over the next few years.
OGA chief executive Andy Samuel said: “The extra 2.8billion barrels identified shows the future potential of the basin which could be boosted further through investment and exploration successes.
“2017 continued to be a productive year and production levels are set to rise in 2018 as more new fields come on-line.
“The OGA continues to work in partnership with industry and government in maximising the economic recovery of our resources and in pursuit of the considerable prize highlighted by Vision 2035.”
Alex Kemp, professor of petroleum economics at Aberdeen University, said 11.7billion barrels would represent “quite a respectable performance.”
But Prof Kemp also said the North Sea still had a lot of “unexploited potential” in undeveloped fields.
He said production through to 2050 could rise to 16billion barrels, partly depending on the sector’s ability to implement new technology.
Furthermore, Prof Kemp said he expected tax revenues to remain “fairly modest” over next few years – at around £1billion annually.
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