North Sea production reaches seven-year high

Chevron's North Sea Captain platforms
Chevron's North Sea Captain platforms

North Sea oil and gas production reached a seven-year high in 2018, according to new figures.

A report from the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) showed more than 25 million extra barrels of oil and gas were produced last year compared to 2017.

An average of 1.7m barrels of oil equivalent (boe) were produced per day, an increase of more than 4% from 2017, and the highest level since 2011, when a rate of 1.81m boe per day was achieved.

Production is expected to decline by 5% per year after 2024.

Meanwhile the industry regulator has also predicted that 11.9 billion barrels of oil equivalent will be produced between 2016 and 2050 – up by 3.9bn barrels from the 8bn forecast in 2015.

The OGA said the increase was due to more than 30 new fields coming on stream since 2015, along with enhanced production techniques.

However, capital expenditure levels in the North Sea dropped for a fourth consecutive year to £5.01b, a “significant” decrease of nearly £700m from £5.7bn in 2017.

The “downwards trend” is expected to halt in 2019 with a 4% increase projected, before resuming its descent in 2020 and beyond.

Investment levels have been slashed in the last four years, down from £12.45bn in 2015.

Spending on decommissioning oil and gas assets increased by 9% to £1.45bn in 2018, compared to the previous year, reflecting an increased level of activity.

The OGA said the extra 3.9bn barrels forecast to 2050 showcases the work of 2018, but the basin could benefit even further with new investment.

Loraine Pace, head of performance, planning and reporting at the OGA, said: “The 3.9bn barrels identified is great news with 2018 being a productive year.

“New discoveries such as Glendronach and Glengorm highlight the future potential of the basin which could be boosted further with new investment, exploration successes and resource progression.

“The OGA continually supports industry in efforts to revitalise exploration, through Area Plans and promoting new technologies.”

Mike Tholen, upstream policy director at industry body Oil and Gas UK (OGUK), said OGA’s figures showed the approaches and strategies of exploration and production companies were paying off.

He added: “We look forward to shedding more light on this when OGUK publishes our Business Outlook later this month.

“This is a significant milestone for an industry emerging from one of the toughest downturns in memory.”

Underlining the need for continued MER support from Westminster, Mr Tholen said: “In a competitive global market, where the competition for investment is intense, it remains critical to maintain the fiscal and regulatory conditions which have supported this solid production performance delivered by industry.

“The UK’s offshore industry has a significant role to play enabling the transition to a lower carbon economy.

“Maintaining investment in our industry will be critical to our efforts to realise the full potential of the basin.”

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