A further 17 billion barrels oil and gas could be recovered from the UK’s offshore fields by 2050 with firms investing up to £330 billion in the effort experts have predicted.

The figures come from a study by economists at Aberdeen university who concluded: “In current circumstances the remaining potential of the United Kingdom Continental Shelf is very substantial.

In the study professor Alex Kemp and Linda Stephen set out to assess whether the Oil and Gas Authority’s hopes that a further 14.9 billion barrels could be recovered from the UKCS by 2025 were realistic.

They found the ambitious targets set in the regulator’s Vision 2035 plan are achievable.

The assessment took account of increases in oil and gas prices in the past year and the cost reductions and efficiency gains achieved in response to the plunge in the crude price between summer 2014 and early 2016.

Assuming crude trades at $70 per barrel or above and gas sells for 60 pence per therm, the authors reckon companies could develop 529 fields on the UKCS over the next 30 years. These could support the production of more than 17 billion barrels oil equivalent reserves.

Firms would spend £158 billion developing fields, at 2018 prices, and £172bn running them.

Decommissioning costs would total £55.2bn.

But the authors noted significant downside risks.

Activity levels could be impacted by changes in oil and gas prices and in companies’ return targets.

“Important caveats are that the benefits of the painfully achieved cost reductions and the productivity gains from enhanced production efficiency have to be maintained,” wrote the authors.

Brent crude sold for $76.48/bbl yesterday.