BP plc (ADR) (BP) Makes Fresh Investments in the North Sea

The biggest problem that oil and natural gas companies face is depleting reserves. With daily production, the overall proven reserves decrease and this leads to a situation where these companies have to find and develop new reserves to sustain production.

And this task is quite challenging. Improvement in technology has made it possible to extract oil and natural gas from reserves which were previously out of reach, or economically unfeasible. BP plc (ADR) (NYSE:BP)’s decision to invest further $500 million to develop its interest in the Clair field is the result of one such improvement.

BP To Pay Massive Fine, More To Come

What does the field promise?

The Clair field was discovered back in 1977, but production started as late as 2005 and has already produced 90 million barrels of oil. Since 2005, BP plc (ADR) (NYSE:BP) and its partners in the Clair project — Shell, ConocoPhillips, and Chevron — have already invested a whopping $10 billion for the first phase facilities, expected to be running till 2028.

The influx of another 500 million is to drill five new wells, which being successful, will lead to the drilling of an additional 7 wells. This investment is part of their planned 4.5 billion pound investment in the second phase. After the completion of the second phase, the area is expected to produce 120,000 barrels of oil per day.

The bigger picture

With the decrease of production in the North Sea, the west of Shetland area is expected to play a vital role in the region’s oil production. It’s one of the least drilled areas and is also expected to hold 8 billion barrels of oil. There are reasons for the area to be unexplored — the huge cost on the environment if anything goes wrong — which we have already seen in BP plc (ADR) (NYSE:BP)’s Gulf of Mexico spill. The conditions are really challenging to locate oil and build an offshore facility. But new technology has provided a glimpse of hope for these companies.

Advancements in seismic technology have made it possible for oil and natural gas companies to locate crude under the deepwaters, leading to a flock of investment in the area. In December, Statoil ASA (ADR) (NYSE:STO) announced that it will invest $7 billion to develop the Mariner field off Shetland in the largest offshore development in the U.K. in more than a decade.

The field is estimated to produce on an average around 55,000 barrels of oil per day with a field life of 30 years. Statoil ASA (ADR) (NYSE:STO) reported an 8% increase in volume for the fourth quarter of 2012, with a 7% increase in adjusted earnings.