ABERDEEN, Scotland, Sept. 19 (UPI) -- Amid tough market conditions, a move by Norwegian energy company Statoil to set up a Scottish headquarters is a vote of confidence, Scotland's first minister said.
Statoil opened an office Monday in Aberdeen with an eye on building a stronger footprint in the regional waters of the North Sea. By 2018, the Scottish government said it expects Statoil to add 700 full-time jobs to the economy.
"The expertise that Scottish oil and gas firms have built up over many decades has positioned our energy sector as a world leader," Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said in a statement. "While we realize that the industry and workforce is going through a difficult time, this investment and expansion from Statoil is a vote of confidence in the North Sea's future."
Sturgeon led a delegation to Beijing last year, meeting with senior representatives from three of the largest Chinese oil companies. Scotland, she said at the time, was open for business.
Data published by the Scottish government said the North Sea remains the largest oil producer and second largest natural gas producer in Europe. The government said there's no disputing the industry is depressed, but production is expected to increase by as much as 17 percent by 2019.
Statoil said it expects to start production from the Mariner field in Scottish waters within the next two years.
The Mariner field is located about 90 miles east of the Shetland Isles. The start of production is planned for 2017, and Mariner has an estimated peak production rate of around 55,000 barrels of oil per day.