Energy giant BP has used technology designed to maximise oil production offshore for the first time, as it began pumping oil from a new development west of Shetland.
The firm hopes to be able to get 640 million barrels of oil from the Clair Ridge, with production expected to peak at 120,00 barrels a day.
The new development is the second phase of the Clair field, which was discovered just over 40 years ago with an estimated seven billion barrels of reserves.
To get the oil from the site, which is 75 kilometres west of Shetland, BP used its enhanced recovery technology for the first time offshore.
The technique involved is called “LoSal”, with the energy firm having estimated its use could result in up to 40 million additional barrels being removed over the lifetime of the project.
Two new oil platforms, which are linked by a bridge, with pipelines to take away the oil and gas have been installed there, with BP having invested more than £4.5 billion there.
Bernard Looney, BP chief executive upstream, said: “The start-up of Clair Ridge is a culmination of decades of persistence.
“Clair was the first discovery we made in the west of Shetland area in 1977. But trying to access and produce its seven billion barrels proved very difficult. We had to leverage our technology and ingenuity to successfully bring on the first phase of this development in 2005.
“And now more than 40 years after the original discovery, we have first oil from Clair Ridge, one of the largest recent investments in the UK.
“This is a major milestone for our opstream business and highlights BP’s continued commitment to the North Sea region.”
Andy Samuel, the chief executive of industry regulators at the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA), said the production of the first oil from the newly built Clair Ridge platform was a “major milestone” for the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS).
He added: “The OGA continues to view the west of Shetland as strategically important with substantial remaining potential.
“The Clair Field has in excess of seven billion barrels in place and is expected to sustain production for many decades to come, with significant scope for further phases of development.”
Deirdre Michie, the chief executive of industry body Oil and Gas UK, said Clair Ridge was part of a “frontier region which is likely to have the greatest potential to expand current UK production”.
She added: “It’s greatly encouraging to see one of the basin’s original explorers using new, ambitious approaches and pioneering technology to help lead a revival in production.
“This is another firm step towards maximising economic recovery from the basin.”