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New oil coming from North Sea

LONDON, April 13 (UPI) — The first volumes of oil are flowing from a well at the Solan field in the North Sea, which should reach steady production rates yet this year, Premier Oil said.

Premier announced oil was flowing naturally and at a restricted initial rate at the field. The company said the field, which is situated about 85 miles off the coast of Shetland, is expected to reach a production rate of between 20,000 and 25,000 barrels of oil per day during the second half of the year.

In its year-end statement for 2015, the company said it was maintaining a disciplined approach during the industry downturn, counting on value to come from its Solan project in the North Sea. Outside of the immediate region, however, the company said its exploration activities would be reduced.

Premier said the Solan project was “challenging” nonetheless, citing rough weather conditions in the area and pressure from lower oil prices. British energy company Petrofac last year said adverse weather conditions in the North Sea forced delays in developing its Laggan-Tormore gas project, where costs ate into profits for full-year 2015.

A February report from Oil & Gas U.K. finds regional exploration activity offshore is at an all-time low and there are no signs of improvement. Less than $1.4 billion in spending on new projects is expected in 2016, compared with an average of around $7 billion in the last five years.

Many of the fields in the North Sea are reaching the end of their life span. British Prime Minister David Cameron in January pledged financial support to help maximize economic recovery in the North Sea. Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing, for his part, said his government was doing its part to revitalize the North Sea, noting there are opportunities remaining if the right strategies are put in place.

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