BP and several partners on Thursday announced plans
to invest more than 500 million dollars to further develop a large
North Sea oil field.
The two-year plan will see BP and partners Shell, Chevron and ConocoPhillips drill five appraisal wells in the 220-kilometre-square Clair field.
If results from these first wells are positive the energy giants could drill up to twelve in total.
"This is a major milestone and a further big commitment to the west of Shetland by BP and its co-venturers," said regional BP chief Trevor Garlick.
"If successful, the appraisal programme could pave the way for a third phase of development at Clair - this is now a real possibility."
Oil was first discovered at Clair in 1977, but a first phase of production only began in 2005. BP announced plans for a second phase of development in 2011, due to start production in 2016.
The field is thought to hold around 8 billion barrels, according to BP, but accessing it has been difficult "due to the highly complex and fractured nature of the reservoir."
Thursday's news coincided with an announcement by the British government of a new oil and gas strategy aimed at securing jobs and investment.
The industry employs 400,000 people and supplies almost half of Britain's energy needs, according to the government.
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