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New oilfield's rapid start-up

TAQA, the Abu Dhabi-owned oil and gas firm, claims to have set a record for the UK North Sea by bringing a new field onstream less than three months after it was discovered.

The company announced it had started production from the Cormorant East field 310 miles north-east of Aberdeen 85 days after the company made the find. This was announced on October 22 last year.

The well is producing 5500 barrels per day.

Mike Tholen, economics director at trade body Oil & Gas UK, said the swift development of new discoveries such as Cormorant East is essential if the UK is to address the "worrying" decline in North Sea production.

The speed of development highlights the effect that advances in subsea technology can have on oil and gas projects and the advantages of working in areas close to existing production infrastructure. Cormorant East produces oil from a single well on the seabead. This is connected to the TAQA-operated North Cormorant processing platform two miles away. The oil is then exported to the Sullom Voe oil terminal on Shetland, which TAQA has a stake in.

The Cormorant East development benefited from tax breaks introduced recently to encourage investment in small fields.

The head of TAQA's UK business, Leo Koot, said the start-up was a landmark for the company. TAQA has built a big portfolio of North Sea fields and related production infrastructure helped by acquisitions. The company looks to boost production from the assets it acquires and to expand its asset base through success with the drill bit.

On its website, TAQA said the advantages it enjoys through owning interests in assets such as the Sullom Voe terminal and Brent pipeline system means it can bring acreage swiftly into commercial operation. It said it can develop reserves that would be "challenging" for other smaller operators.

Mr Koot said: "First oil production from Cormorant East marks an important step in the growth of TAQA's exploration portfolio.

"We have established a successful, long-term business in the UK and plan to continue to play an integral role in enhancing the North Sea's reputation as a world class centre for exploration and production."

The company was so confident about the prospect of Cormorant East that it prepared plans to develop the find before it made the discovery.

John Hayes, UK Energy Minister, said the development of small fields like Cormorant East is a fundamental part of the Coalition Government's strategy to extend the life of the oil and gas industry.

TAQA has a 60% stake in Cormorant East and operates the field; Korean-owned Dana Petroleum has 20%; Canada's Antrim Resources has 8.4%; and Aberdeen-based First Oil Expro and Bridge Energy have 7.6% and 4% respectively.

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