EQUINOR has highlighted its plans to complete multi-billion oil field developments in the UK North Sea which it said underlined its confidence in investing in the country.

The manager of the Norwegian oil giant’s UK business, Al Cook, said the firm’s plans for the Mariner and Rosebank fields off Shetland reflect its intention to remain a major player in the UK energy market.

His comments underline the significance of the company’s decision to buy Chevron’s stake in Rosebank in October.

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Rosebank has been described as the largest undeveloped find in UK waters. However, Chevron scrapped plans to develop the field in 2013, before the oil price plunge made the economics of the project even more challenging.

Announcing a 40 per cent increase in annual profits, to around £14bn on Wednesday, Equinor described Rosebank as a large high-value project with a defined business case that was expected to come onstream in the next 10 years.

The company included the Mariner field East of Shetland in a list of major projects that are expected to come onstream this year.

Equinor made clear yesterday it sees lots of exploration potential in the UK North Sea. The company said it will participate in a record five wells this year. These include initial wells on the Bigfoot and Pip prospects with BP and appraisal work on the Verbier find made in 2017 with Jersey Oil & Gas.

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The company said Bigfoot lies in an area of the North Sea that’s relatively mature while Pip will test the underexplored margins of the basin East of Shetland. Both opportunities have been matured through the acquisition of new seismic data.

“With the multi-billion pound development of our two new major projects, Mariner and Rosebank, this exploration programme underlines our confidence in investing in this country,” said Mr Cook. “Together with our growing wind power business, we plan to remain a strong and reliable energy partner for the UK.”

Equinor is participating in a well that Eni is drilling on the Rowallan prospctct. It will drill on the Lifjellet prospect with Shell later in the year.

Separately, a Norwegian oil services business, WellConnection Group, has expanded into the UK market through the acquisition of Peterhead-based Independent Oilfield Services for an undisclosed sum.

The deal signals confidence in the prospects that the recovery in North Sea activity levels that has followed the partial recover in the oil price since late 2016 will be maintained.

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Private equity-backed WellConnection said IOS would provide it with a strong foothold in the UK market to complement its Norwegian business as the first step in the realization of its strategy to become a leading international player.

Founded in 2014, IOS provides inspection repair and maintenance services covering piping used by firms operating in the UK North Sea.

The company has 60 employees. No job losses are expected as a result of the acquisition.