LONDON, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- The British economy will import more oil and natural gas despite upbeat forecasts for the North Sea and shale's potential, the British energy minister said.
British Energy Minister Michael Fallon spoke at Chatham House, a London think tank, on the future of the nation's energy sector.
"We became a net importer of oil in 2005," he said in remarks published Monday. "In 2012 our oil import dependence increased to 36 percent, and is expected to rise to 47 percent by 2020."
Fallon's assessment follows a report from energy consultant group Wood Mackenzie, which forecasts a North Sea revival. Fallon announced Friday energy companies can now apply for drilling licenses for the area.
In terms of shale oil and natural gas, the minister said the reserves are "an exciting prospect" for the British energy sector. The minister said new tax incentives could draw more investors to his country's frontier shale basins, though production from those reserves is years away.
Fallon said British energy companies need to remain focused on energy reserves from the Middle East and North Africa to keep up with demand. Despite reserves at home, he said the Middle East is "at the center of the longer term oil outlook."