THE head of BP's North Sea business has said the oil and gas giant expects to increase production in the area over the next few years following heavy investment in areas like West of Shetland.

Trevor Garlick, regional president BP North Sea, told an event in Edinburgh the oil and gas giant should start increasing output in the area this year after a long period in which production has been falling as a result of asset sales.

A presentation given by Mr Garlick showed North Sea production increasing in the years from 2015 to 2018.

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BP did not quantify the expected increase in production.

However Mr Garlick emphasised the scale of BP's activity in the North Sea, saying the company had "turned the corner" in the area.

After selling off a range of non core assets, BP is focusing investment on big fields which it expects to yield high margin production.

These include the revamped Andrew field north east of Aberdeen, which it plans to bring onstream this year.

West of Shetland, BP is investing billions of pounds on the Clair Ridge extension and the redevelopment of the Schiehallion field, due onstream in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

BP sees great potential to get more oil and gas out of its acreage in the North Sea.

It is appraising finds made in the area of the Clair field.

"We are working hard on Clair phase three,"said Mr Garlick. "We are very excited about Clair."

He said the North Sea has a great future but faces significant challenges, including the cost of operating in the area.