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Report highlights expected £44bn investment in North Sea oil and gas projects by 2016

Scottish Enterprise expects to see £44 billion invested in oil and gas projects in the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) by 2016, according to a new report.29 Nov 2012

Its 'Spends and Trends' study (90-page / 5MB PDF) identifies 86 new fields where work is underway or could begin before 2016. These include the recently-announced £2.5bn development of the Laggan and Tormore gas fields in the West of Shetland area, and new investments in existing fields including Forties and Schiehallion.

The report showed that oil and gas resources yet to be extracted from the UKCS would provide significant development opportunities for companies in the sector, as well as those in the supply chain, for decades to come, according to David Rennie of Scottish Enterprise.

According to the report, forecast expenditure over the next few years was "surprisingly high" due to the number of major field developments either planned or underway. It added that the high price of oil was one of the main reasons for the increased activity, and noted that the development of various fields previously believed to be non-commercial would likely guarantee production for at least another 20 years.

There would likely also be a significant increase on spending on decommissioning over the next five years, according to the report, with decommissioning of the Brent field alone estimated to cost at least £4.5bn. While some projects had been delayed due to uncertainty around the taxation of decommissioning spending, the Treasury's proposed Decommissioning Relief Deeds would resolve some of these issues, Scottish Enterprise said. These documents would contractually set out the levels of relief that companies would be entitled to claim once a facility is decommissioned, providing a degree of certainty to investors.

Energy law expert Bob Ruddiman of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that the report provided further evidence of the billions of pounds worth of investment opportunities in the North Sea.

"In the context of a stable fiscal environment, the UK Continental Shelf will continue to yield many billions of barrels of oil and encourage significant investment and job creation," he said. "In addition, a vibrant domestic oil and gas market can only further enhance our ability to export oil and gas services and associated intellectual capital."

He added that the announcement that Abu Dhabi's national energy company, TAQA, had acquired North Sea oil and gas assets worth more than £1bn was further evidence of the investment opportunities available.

Scottish Enterprise worked with the Scottish Government and the energy industry to produce a Scottish Oil and Gas strategy earlier this year. According to the strategy, oil and gas producers in Scotland should aim for £30bn in annual sales by 2020, of which 60% should be exports. The Scottish oil and gas supply chain now records sales in over 100 countries and has seen additional significant growth in sub-sectors including subsea, project management and design services over the past decade, according to the strategy document.

Scotland's Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing, said that the strategy would "help the industry go from strength to strength".

"Rising capital investment – reaching £8.5bn in 2011 and expected to rise to £11.5bn in 2012 – demonstrates the confidence investors and the industry have in Scotland," he said.

"I warmly welcome [Scottish Enterprise's] report which clearly demonstrates the vast potential of the oil and gas sector in Scotland. With more than half of the value of the North Sea's oil and has reserves yet to be extracted, up to 24 billion recoverable barrels with a potential wholesale value of £1.5 trillion, I am sure the sector will remain an enormous economic resource for decades to come," he said.