CAIRN Energy has highlighted the progress it made on two big field development projects in the North Sea last year as the company prepares to start drilling off Senegal, where it has made big finds.

The Edinburgh-based oil company said it expects to bring the giant the Kraken field onstream off Shetland this year with Catcher to follow off Aberdeen. Recent work has underlined the potential of both assets.

Cairn reckons the fields will generate 25,000 barrels oil equivalent daily production for the company at peak rates. That will put the firm in line to generate lots of cash in the North Sea even at current depressed oil prices.

The confidence partly reflects the fact Cairn and partners have benefited from the deep cuts in the cost of support services such as drilling seen in the North Sea amid the downturn triggered by the slump in crude prices since 2014.

But recent wells have also underlined the quality of the reservoirs in both fields, which are expected to be onstream for years.

Cairn expects to start drilling work off Senegal later this month on two wells that will be used to appraise the SNE find it made off the country. It reckons SNE may hold around one billion barrels recoverable.

Chief executive Simon Thomson said the next 12 months will be eventful for Cairn. He noted: “With six successful wells drilled to date in Senegal, Cairn has established a significant and growing resource base. The 2017 drilling programme aims to further define the SNE field for development and target additional exploration upside.”

Mr Thomson added: “Cairn is fully-funded in respect of all of our capital commitments and we continue to actively assess and pursue new ventures.”

Cairn remains embroiled in a longrunning tax dispute with the Indian Government, concerning events leading up to the flotation of its former subsidiary in the country in 2006.

The dispute is subject to an international arbitration process. Cairn maintains it has paid all taxes due in India and is seeking $1 billion (£820m) damages from the government.

It is developing Kraken with Enquest and Catcher with Premier Oil.