LONDON, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- British energy company BP said it was embarking on a drilling campaign in the southern waters of the North Sea that could uncork a new natural gas reserve.
BP said it was drilling, alongside its regional partners, beneath a mature basin in the southern North Sea. If successful, the company said it could open up a new area of potential gas development in the region.
"What we don't know is whether, if gas is found, long-term production can be proven economic from this deeply buried reservoir horizon," he said in a statement.
Even though some areas are running dry, BP said the North Sea remained a central component of its portfolio. The company plans to drill up to five exploration wells over the next 18 months and 50 development wells over the next three to four years and estimates total regional production will reach 200,000 barrels per day by the end of the decade.
The gas announcement comes one week after the company took on some of the interest held by Norwegian energy company Statoil in the Jock Scott reserve basin and an additional stake in the Craster prospect, held by Canadian energy company Nexen in the North Sea.
Thomas said in late November that teaming up with regional players meant the potential for new life for the remaining reserves in the North Sea.
Lower crude oil prices, relatively unchanged from one year ago, but more than 40 percent below the level from two years ago, have forced some oil and gas companies to cut back on exploration and production activity, particularly in the maturing North Sea.
BP reported third quarter profits were down nearly 50 percent from last year as lower crude oil prices continue to put pressure on revenue streams.