North Sea predicted to gain 25 new platforms

Oil companies could order 25 new offshore platforms for the UK sector of the North Sea over the next three years, an industry study indicated this week.

This key finding of the UK Offshore Operators Association’s survey of its members’ investment intentions will bring relief to the industry’s hard-pressed heavy engineering and fabrication sector, braced for thousands of job losses this year.

The 25 fixed structures will form part of an anticipated £10.6bn investment in new developments by the end of 2003, with a further £1.6bn to be spent on exploration drilling. Despite the requirement for fixed platforms, about half of which will be smaller structures for the southern gas-producing basin of the North Sea, there will be even greater demand for subsea equipment. Some 68 contracts should go ahead over the period.

The UKOOA survey received responses from 22 of its 32 members, accounting for about 95% of Britain’s oil and gas production.

The results were much more optimistic than those of a study by the Department of Trade and Industry in March. While the DTI forecast spending on developments in 2001 at £2.4bn, UKOOA put the figure at 3.1bn.

James May, UKOOA director-general, said: `The DTI survey was constrained by budgets set when the oil price was hovering at $15-16 a barrel, and the figures now seem to be conservative.’

He said operators had since reassessed budgets in the light of higher crude prices.

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