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BP finds oilfield off Shetlands

BRITISH Petroleum, the oil giant, has struck what may be a big oil field about 170 kilometres south-west of Shetland, writes Neil Thapar.

The discovery confirms the western part of the islands as an important new area for oil exploration and could provide Britain with a new source of oil revenues.

BP's initial estimates suggest that the field contains recoverable reserves of between 250 and 500 million barrels, equivalent to a medium-sized North Sea field.

However, the final estimates could be much larger, making it one of the most significant finds in British waters for a decade.

John Browne, chief executive of BP Exploration, said: 'This is a promising discovery which will require further appraisal to define the reserves more precisely. The discovery has the potential to open up a significant new play in the west of Shetland.'

The discovery was made in block 204/24a at a depth of 48 metres. BP has an 80 per cent stake, with the balance owned by Shell.

As a result of the find, the Government has awarded the two companies five more blocks to explore in the area. The companies will hold equal shares in the new blocks.