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North Sea could see second oil boom due to huge unexplored reserves

North Sea could see second oil boom due to huge unexplored reserves

The rising price of oil could spark a second North Sea exploration boom to drain previously inaccessible reserves which experts estimate could run to 30 billion barrels.

The amount of fuel still left in the oilfields could be the equivalent of all that has been extracted since they were first exploited in the 1970s; enough to last another 44 years.

Experts explained that the high price of oil meant that it was now financially viable for firms to invest the vast sums required to remove it from depths and pressures that were previously too expensive.

Academics said up to 300 more fields around the British coasts could also bear fruit, as large areas of the UK’s coast have never been fully examined.

Industry giants like BP and Shell are unlikely to do the work, though, as the ‘new’ fields are smaller, which means they are easier for smaller firms – with lower overheads – to move in and exploit.

The claims came as First Minister Alex Salmond, of the Scottish National Party, reiterated his demands for Scotland to get a share of increased North Sea oil taxes in a letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Chancellor Alistair Darling has rejected the SNP’s argument, arguing that a slowing economy meant that other sources of tax revenue, like stamp duty on house sales, could shrink.

The SNP believes the industry has covered up the extent of oil reserves to avoid greater taxation.

Professor Alex Kemp, a petroleum economics expert at Aberdeen University, said: “The remaining reserves could be 20 to 22 billion barrels equivalent and on optimistic estimates could be over 30. So there still is a substantial amount left.”

Professor Peter Odell, of Erasmus University in the Netherlands, said: “It’s not quite as much as we’ve used already but it’s not far short.”

Last month, an independent British firm called Dana Petroleum announced it had found a new North Sea oilfield at a place called West Rinnes.

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