BP unveils first oil from new North Sea field as profits please

Oil major BP has announced first oil from a key North Sea field after beating forecasts with its latest results.

BP remains a key player in the North Sea. Picture: Andy Buchanan
BP remains a key player in the North Sea. Picture: Andy Buchanan

The group announced “encouraging” early production from the Alligin field, west of Shetland. It came as departing boss Bob Dudley beat expectations in the final set of results he presented as chief executive, allowing him to give shareholders an increased dividend.

The Alligin field, which forms part of the Greater Schiehallion Area, is estimated to have some 20 million barrels of oil equivalent and was originally forecast to produce 12,000 barrels of oil a day at peak.

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BP, as operator and on behalf of co-venturer Shell, said the project’s performance had been better than expected, reaching 15,000 barrels a day at peak since start-up in late December.

Departing chief executive Bob Dudley. Picture: BP plc

The development has included new subsea infrastructure, consisting of gas lift and water injection pipeline systems, and a new controls umbilical.

BP North Sea regional president Ariel Flores said: “Achieving first oil from the Alligin field safely, under budget and ahead of schedule is testament to the performance of the project team and their agile approach to planning and execution.

“Alligin is part of BP’s advantaged oil strategy, a development with a shorter project cycle time with oil that is economic to produce and low risk to bring to market.”

Alligin is part of a series of tieback developments in the North Sea, accessing new production from fields located near to established facilities.

Meanwhile, BP reported underlying replacement cost (RC) profit, its most watched measure, of $2.6 billion (£2bn) for the fourth quarter.

Although that was down from $3.5bn in the same period last year, it still beat the $2.1bn that brokers had forecast.

On a full-year basis, underlying RC profit was nearly $10bn, a reduction from $12.7bn a year earlier. On a reported basis, the fourth quarter RC profit fell by 65 per cent to $3.5bn.

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As a result, Dudley was able to increase the dividend by 2.4 per cent to 10.5 cents (8.1p) per share, which will be paid at the end of March. The finalised figure in sterling will be published in mid-March.

“BP is performing well, with safe and reliable operations, continued strategic progress and strong cash delivery,” Dudley said.

“This all supports our commitment to growing distributions to shareholders over the long term and the dividend rise we announced today.”

Stuart Lamont, investment manager at Brewin Dolphin Aberdeen, noted: “BP’s results have come in slightly better than expected, but they are still a reflection of the challenging environment for oil and gas companies.

“There are some positives to be taken including the progress of BP’s divestment programme, an increase in production, good reliability, and greater diversification.”

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