UPDATE 1-Britain needs new North Sea regulator urgently -review

Mon Nov 11, 2013 10:13am EST
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By Sarah Young

LONDON Nov 11 (Reuters) - Britain urgently needs to set up a new regulator to encourage oil and gas companies to collaborate and counter plunging North Sea production rates, a government-commissioned review said in its initial findings on Monday.

The government launched the review of the North Sea, the first in more than 20 years, after output plunged by a third from 2010 to 2012. While production has been in decline since 1999, the big drops in recent years have acted as a drag on economic growth.

Led by Ian Wood, former chairman of FTSE 100 oil services company Wood Group, the review outlined a plan to pump an extra 3 billion to 4 billion barrels of oil equivalent (boe) than would otherwise be extracted over the next 20 years.

The plan involves establishing an "arm's-length" regulatory body that would drive collaboration between different companies, maximising the barrels pumped.

Wood emphasised that the plan should be implemented urgently to battle the North Sea's deteriorating production.

Britain faces a race against time to find and develop new fields and hook them up to existing pipelines and platforms or risk that the infrastructure is dismantled and oil is left in the ground, because the finds are too small to warrant building new facilities.

"Infrastructure - that's our Achilles heel right now - trying to consolidate infrastructure we have, get it best-used," Wood said at a news conference.   Continued...