PREMIER Oil has said production from the Catcher field has stabilised at 60,000 barrels oil daily highlighting the success of a project which has boosted the North Sea oil and gas industry amid challenging times.

London-based Premier started production from Catcher east of Aberdeen in December with Cairn Energy after completing the project as firms grappled with the fall out from the crude price plunge.

The performance of Catcher since it came onstream has underlined the potential of a field that is reckoned to contain as much as 100 million barrels.

Catcher is producing 20 per cent more oil daily than the peak rate targeted when the project won Government approval in June 2014.

The partners are making plenty of money on the output, although Brent is still selling for around $40 per barrel less than the $115/bbl it fetched that month.

The success could encourage other firms to take on the risks involved in developing North Sea discoveries and in hunting for more finds.

Premier’s board has approved plan to develop the Tolmount field in the Southern North Sea. This was found in 2011.

The company said Tolmount was a high value project with the potential to deliver significant future growth along with the Zama find it made in Mexico last year.

The comparison is noteworthy given excitement in the industry about the potential for making huge finds in the relatively under-explored waters off Mexico, which is opening up to international oil companies.

Premier acquired Tolmount with the -portfolio of North Sea assets it bought from Germany’s E.ON for $120m in 2016.

But it has faced big problems with the bumper Solan development West of Shetland.

Premier produced an average 4,500 boed from Solan in the first half. When the field was brought onstream in 2016, following delays, Solan said it expected to be producing 20,000 to 25,000 boed from the field by the end of that year.

In March Premier noted poor reservoir performance on the field.

Chief executive Tony Durrant said then that Solan had not been a successful project for Premier. The company’s expertise lay in developing projects featuring floating facilities, such as those used on Catcher, rather than the kind of fixed platform linked to Solan.

Production from Solan this year has been in line with recent guidance.

In an update on trading in the six months to June 30, he said yesterday:“Catcher delivering stable plateau production is an important milestone for Premier.”

He said this coupled with the ongoing strong performance from Premier’s underlying portfolio and focus on cost control, will fuel material debt reduction.

Premier expects to reduce net debt by up to $0.4bn over the full year, from $2.72bn at the end of 2017.

It cost $1.3bn to take Catcher to first oil, 20 per cent less than expected.

The partners in the project benefitted from the fall in the cost of services seen in the North Sea during the crude price plunge, amid cuts in spending by many firms.

They include MOL of Hungary and Holland’s Dyas.

Premier also has assets in Asia and off the Falkland Isles.

The company produced an average 76,100 barrels oil equivalent daily in the first half against 82,100 boed last time.

Production in the UK fell to 41,100 boed from 45,500 boed, partly reflecting natural decline on the Huntington field and a planned shut down on the asset that was extended by bad weather in February.

Output from Catcher averaged 13,300 boe. It was restricted while commissioning work was completed.