OIL and gas industry leaders have welcomed BP’s decision to increase its stake in the giant Clair field West of Shetland saying it provides an important vote of confidence in the North Sea.

However, US giant Chevron is set to retreat from the area after putting a portfolio of North Sea assets up for sale.

BP announced on Tuesday night that it had agreed to acquire an additional 16.5 per cent holding in Clair Ridge from US major ConocoPhillips in exchange for interests in Alaska.

The head of BP’s North Sea business, Ariel Flores, said the deal provided further evidence of the company’s enduring commitment to what he described as a growth region.

Yesterday Oil & Gas UK said that by increasing its stake in Clair BP was sending a clear vote of confidence in the North Sea and the opportunities it continues to present to investors.

Mike Tholen, upstream policy director at the industry body, noted: “Investment is picking up in the basin, with more investments expected to be announced in coming months.”

BP’s decision to shift investment from Alaska to the UK comes after the firm sold assets and cut jobs in the North Sea amid the downturn triggered by the crude price plunge that started in 2014.

The head of its exploration and production division, Bernard Looney, highlighted the appeal of the Clair field.

“Clair is a key advantaged oilfield for our North Sea business, a giant resource whose second phase is about to begin production and which holds great potential for future developments,” said Mr Looney, who plays a key role in deciding where BP will invest.

BP will increase its holding in Clair from 28.6% to 45.1% through the deal with ConocoPhillips, which will retain 7.5%.

Chevron told Reuters it had initiated a process of marketing all its Central North Sea assets. These include stakes in the the Alba, and Elgin/Franklin fields and the Britannia platform.

Chevron has been focusing on growing shale production in areas such as Texas.

It has been considering developing the Rosebank field West of Shetland.