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British producer Premier Oil reaches milestone in output

The Catcher area is producing now at its plateau rate, the company stated Thursday.

By Daniel J. Graeber
British producer Premier Oil reaches milestone in output
The Catcher basin in the North Sea has reached its peak production rate, Premier Oil stated Thursday. Photo courtesy of Premier Oil

Aug. 23 (UPI) -- Plateau production from its flagship Catcher basin in the North Sea helped drive net income in the first half of the year higher, Premier Oil stated.

"Premier met its operational targets for the period," Chief Executive Tony Durrant said in a statement. "The Catcher area is now at plateau production rates which, together with higher commodity prices, are driving free cash flow generation and net debt reduction."

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Its Catcher prospect in the region had a consistent rate of production of around 60,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, close to its peak performance, earlier this year. Premier stated Thursday that production has now reached its plateau of 70,000 boe per day.

Net first-half production was down 7 percent from the same period last year. For July, however, its average production was 7 percent higher than last year, reflecting the gains from the Catcher basin.

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The complex, comprised of the Catcher, Burgman and Varadero fields, was discovered in 2010 by Premiere and the company at the time put the gross reserve estimate between 25 million and 50 million barrels of oil.

Premier reported profit after tax more than doubled from the same period last year to $98.4 million, better than a forecast from RBC Capital Markets. The improvement was driven in part by tax credits.

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The company left its production guidance for the year unchanged in the range of 80,000 and 85,000 boe per day. Total capital expenditures of $380 million were static.

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Looking ahead, construction on the platform for the Tolmount Main natural gas field in the North Sea is scheduled for the fourth quarter. In terms of oil equivalent, the company said the gas outlook is on par with Catcher.

"Premier remains focused on delivering the highest return projects from its portfolio," the company's statement read. "The sanction of our operated Tolmount Main gas project marks a major milestone."

Premier's portfolio is important for a regional economy that is starting to depend more on foreign suppliers to satisfy domestic demand.

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Field maturation has forced the idling of several production platforms. British natural gas imports alone are on pace to increase from about 45 percent of demand to 76 percent by 2030.

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