BRIDGE Energy's reserves increased by 22% last year when the North Sea-focused oil and gas independent laid the foundations for what its chief executive said would be an exciting growth phase.

The Aberdeen-based company said an independent report by the AGR Tracs petroleum consultancy showed the company had 3.26 million barrels oil equivalent proved and probable reserves at December 31, compared with 2.67mmboe at the end of the preceding year.

The increase in the amount of resources held in developed assets, classed as reserves, was partly driven by the acquisition of a stake in the producing Boa field from OMV during the year.

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Bridge acquired 520,000 barrels reserves.

The increase also reflects 547,000 barrels in respect of revisions to the reserve estimates for the producing Duart and Victoria fields.

With production totalling 476,000 barrels during the year, Bridge said it replaced its output more than twice over, with a reserve replacement ratio of 224%.

Bridge increased its contingent resources by 37mmboe, 128%, to 66mmboe, during the year, helped by success with the drill bit.

Contingent resources include finds which the company has not yet established can be produced commercially.

Aim-listed Bridge made oil discoveries on prospects it worked up off Norway with the Asha and Garantiana wells and at Cormorant East in the UK.

The contingent resources also include 12.3mmboe gained by Bridge through winning a licence in the UK southern North Sea that contains the Vulcan South discovery.

Bridge said several of the discoveries on its acreage were "very close" to existing or planned development infrastructure.

Chief executive Tom Reynolds said: "The step-change in the commercial resource base, coupled with progressing our development portfolio, provides for a very exciting growth phase for Bridge to build upon during 2013."

The company's nominated adviser, Cenkos Securities, said Bridge has four "high impact" exploration wells planned in 2013.

The progress may boost confidence in the prospects for emerging independents in the North Sea, where competition for acreage has intensified amid strong global demand for oil and gas.

Bridge has a market capitalisation of around £80 million.

Earlier this month, the chief executive of one of the biggest independents operating in the North Sea, Faroe Petroleum, said it missed out on some targets it bid for in UK waters last year.

Graham Stewart said then Aberdeen-based Faroe remained keen to buy producing assets in the UK North Sea.