NORTH Sea-focused Ithaca Energy has underlined its appetite for more acreage in the area, where it is planning hefty investment this year.

In an update on operations the Aberdeen-based company said: "During 2014, the company will continue to seek opportunities to enhance the value of its existing UK portfolio.

"The company's growth strategy remains focused on securing appraisal, development and production opportunities."

Loading article content

Ithaca said it expects to invest $295 million (£180m) developing existing assets in 2014.

The company significantly increased its exposure to the North Sea through the £203m acquisition of Valiant Petroleum in April last year.

Led by chief executive Les Thomas, Ithaca is one of a generation of independents that believe they can generate good returns from assets that giants may not want to invest in.

Majors have made a series of disposals in recent years, involving what they decided were non-core assets, including some mature fields.

Royal Dutch Shell declined to comment yesterday on a report that it will sell some North Sea fields as part of a plan to raise $15 billion from disposals over the next two years, under new chief executive Ben van Beurden.

In November, Shell's chief financial officer Simon Henry noted that the company expected to increase the pace of disposals and appeared to indicate assets off eastern Scotland may be sale candidates.

Mr Henry said then: "We have central North Sea assets, which are part of some of the operational challenges that we have."

He added: "These are mature assets and we need to be thinking about future decommissioning."

Ithaca said it expects to produce an average 11,000 to 13,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day this year.

It expects to start producing around 16,000 boed from the Greater Stella Area development from the end of the year.

Ithaca produced around 13,000 boed on average in 2013.