The oil and gas industry regulator has increased its forecast of what the waters around the UK can recover over the next three decades.
There is a potential for a further 2.8 billion barrels of oil or the gas equivalent due to changes in the way the sector operates.
It has been estimated that 11.7 billion barrels could be recovered between 2016 to 2050.
The Oil and Gas Authority’s increased estimate for the offshore industry also reflects new investment.
Oil companies approved a series of major investments that gave the UK offshore sector a second wind.
Most of the expenditure was in new fields, many of them to the west and east of Shetland. The last of that phase of new fields is expected to come on stream in the next few months.
As a result of these investments the industry’s production total has increased from 1.4m barrels to 1.63m barrels in 2016. This rate was repeated in 2017 and production during 2018 is expected to be higher again.
The Oil and Gas Authority as the new regulator, based in Aberdeen, was given powers to require co-ordination by oil producers, and to ensure they did not close down assets prematurely. It expects to see investment continue further into the future.
Capital expenditure has continually fell and will continue to do so, says the authority.
While operating costs increased slightly last year, they are still 27% below the high reached in 2014, when the high oil price began its slide.
Andy Samuel, chief executive of the Oil and Gas Authority commented:
“The extra 2.8 billion barrels identified shows the future potential of the basin which could be boosted further through investment and exploration successes.”
“Last year, 2017, continued to be a productive year and production levels are set to rise in 2018 as more new fields come on-line.”