Largest untapped oil field in UK to be developed

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The Independent Online

The oil giant BP yesterday announced plans to develop the largest untapped oil field in UK waters – a quarter of a century after it was first discovered.

BP plans to produce up to 5 billion barrels of oil from the Clair field – situated about 60 miles west of Shetland in the treacherous waters of the North Atlantic – at a development cost of £650m.

Up to 900 jobs are expected to be created by the project, many of them in Scotland. "There are some who thought the field would never be developed but as technology has improved and smarter ways of working have been developed we have moved steadily closer to the realisation that the field could be economically and competitively developed," said Doug Suttles, BP's operations and development manager for the far North Sea yesterday.

Phase one of the operation, which is expected to eventually yield 60,000 barrels of oil and 15 million cubic feet of gas a day, is expected to start as soon as the Department of Trade and Industry gives the official go-ahead next month.

However it won't be until late 2004 that the first oil from the Clair operation, which will focus on the Core, Graben and Horst reservoir areas which BP believes have reserves of about 1.75 billion barrels, is expected to be piped ashore to the Sullom Voe oil terminal on Shetland.

BP has worked with Conoco, Chevron UK, Enterprise Oil and Amerada Hess to develop the field, which was first discovered in 1977 but thought too difficult to exploit.

"When Clair was discovered we knew we had a challenge on our hands to develop the field, given the technical difficulties at that time in doing so," said Scott Urban, group vice-president for BP's North Sea operations.

"But I'm pleased to say that technology has advanced to the point where this difficult development is now viable.

"The development of Clair represents a significant investment for all the co-venturers. It also shows that there are still opportunities to invest in the North Sea and Atlantic areas of the UK. I believe there will continue to be for many years to come."