BRITAIN’S biggest offshore oil project in more than a decade has been given the go-ahead, signalling a huge boost to jobs in the North-east.
Announcing the UK government’s decision, Energy Secretary Ed Davey said Norwegian giant Statoil’s £4.6 billion project in the Mariner heavy oil field east of Shetland was a “vote of confidence” in the country’s oil and gas industry.
The investment will create more than 700 jobs, including 200 onshore posts in Aberdeen. Production is set to begin in 2017 and is expected to run for about 30 years, reaching a peak of 55,000 barrels of oil per day.
Statoil president and chief executive Helge Lund said: “Statoil and its partners appreciate the co-operation from the UK government and the approval of the development plan for this landmark project.
“The North Sea is a core area for Statoil and we look forward to taking a leading role in further developing the UK part of this basin.”
Davey said that unlocking heavy oil production marked a new chapter in UK offshore development.
Industry body Oil & Gas UK said the investment would raise hundreds of millions of pounds in tax revenues.
“The scale of the investment highlights the strength of current activity and the continuing importance of oil and gas to the economy,” said Mike Tholen, economics director. “Once production starts, hundreds of millions of pounds will flow to the public purse and the UK’s energy security will be boosted.”
Statoil and its junior partners – JX Nippon Exploration and Alba Resources, a subsidiary of Cairn Energy – announced Mariner’s revival in December.
Discovered in 1981, Mariner was left dormant because of low flow rates and other technical challenges that would have made it unprofitable. However, new technologies, rising oil prices and a more favourable tax regime have revived its fortunes.
Statoil took over the Mariner licence as operator in 2007, and has a 65.1 per cent stake in the project. JX Nippon has a 28.9 per cent interest in the field, and Alba a 6 per cent stake.