NORTH Sea-focused Serica Energy is closing in on acquisition targets in the area after making progress amid tough conditions in the oil and gas industry.

London-based Serica made $10.3m (£7.7m) profit after tax in the six months to 30 June after losing $2.8m in the same period last time.

The company suffered disruptions to production from the Erskine, which is its only producing asset, in 2016.

It produced an average 2,800 barrels oil equivalent daily from Erskine in the first half.

The average price secured for the crude it sold rose from $36.6 per barrel last time, to $51.5/bbl.

That is less than half the $115/bbl that Brent crude fetched in June 2014, when Serica bought a stake in the Erskine field east of Aberdeen from BP in a £10m deal.

However the company has said it can make plenty of money on the output from Erskine with crude trading at lower prices.

Operating costs were $14/bbl in the first half.

Led by chairman Tony Craven Walker, Serica has remained keen to expand in the North Sea throughout the downturn that started in 2014.

He has noted the downturn has created opportunities for firms that have resources in place to buy assets at attractive prices.

There are lots of assets for sale in the North Sea. Some firms are looking to raise cash. Majors have been focusing investment on big projects and selling off what they regard as non core assets.

Mr Craven Walker said Serica is well placed to take advantage of new opportunities to grow both through its existing portfolio and through acquisition.

The company is “actively reviewing a small number of

value accretive opportunities” that match its strategic objectives.

Serica is excited about the potential to develop the Columbus find.

It plans to drill the Rowallan exploration well with Eni next year.

It had $31m in the bank at 30 June and no debt.

Directors expect full year output to average 2,200 to 2,400 boed, following the recent suspension of production for facilities and pipeline maintenance.