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TAQA wins UK approval to develop North Sea Morrone field

TWO overseas oil and gas companies are set to increase investment in the North Sea after winning official clearance to develop a find off Scotland.

Abu Dhabi-owned TAQA said it has received approval from the UK Government to develop the Morrone field around 200 miles north east of Aberdeen with Denmark's Maersk Oil.

With first oil expected in the third quarter of 2014, the approval is expected to pave the way for the relatively speedy development of what is a significant asset.

TAQA said it expects Morrone will initially produce over 3000 barrels of oil equivalent per day.

The decision to invest in Morrone provides the latest example of the enthusiasm some overseas owned oil and gas firms feel for the UK North Sea, which is considered a mature area.

TAQA has built a significant position in the North Sea, partly by acquiring assets that other firms decided were non core.

The company acquired its interest in Morrone in November last year in a $1 billion (£610 million) deal to buy what it called a major portfolio of operated oil and gas assets in the North Sea from BP.

A division of the AP Moller Maersk shipping giant, Maersk Oil bought Kerr-McGee's North Sea interests for £1.65bn in 2005.

The company has bought stakes in two North Sea prospects in separate deals this year.

The managing director of TAQA's UK business, Pete Jones, highlighted the speed with which the company had made progress towards bringing Morrone onstream.

He said: "Reaching this milestone so quickly is due to an intense effort by TAQA's subsurface and wells teams, close collaboration with our partners, and a smooth transition of operatorship of the field from BP in June 2013."

Morrone is in the Central North Sea where a large amount of production infrastructure in place.

Drilling on Morrone was completed from the Harding platform around three miles distant.

Formed in 2006, Aberdeen-based TAQA Bratani produced an average 43,700 barrels oil equivalent daily this year and 41,800 boed in 2012.

It also acquired interests in the Harding, Maclure and Devenick fields in last year's deal with BP.

The company's assets include a 24% interest in the giant Sullom Voe Terminal operated on Shetland by BP.

TAQA said more than 500 employees and over 2500 contractors and subcontractors work for the business on the UK Continental Shelf and onshore. In August the managing director of Maersk Oil & Gas UK, Martin Rune Pedersen, said: "Maersk Oil firmly believes in the productive future of the North Sea and the opportunities that it offers.

"As a business, we are committed to growing our operations in the UK North Sea and are actively investing in increasing our footprint both on and offshore in Aberdeen."

TAQA has a 70% interest in Morrone while Maersk Oil North Sea has 30%.

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