OIL and gas analysts have rated North Sea-focused i3 Energy as one of their top sector picks ahead of a drilling campaign that will be followed with interest in the area.

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Canaccord Genuity included Aberdeen-based i3 Energy in a list of smaller exploration and production firms whose share prices could be impacted by potentially game changing developments over the next six months.

Experts at the investment bank noted i3 is expected to complete a three well campaign on acreage in the Moray Firth the oil and gas firm reckons could contain around 200 million barrels oil equivalent.

Success in the campaign could pave the way to the development of the Liberator find and help encourage a badly-needed increase in exploration activity in the UK North Sea.

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Premier Oil, which has extensive North Sea operations, is one of three larger exploration and production companies chosen as stand outs by experts at Cannacord Genuity, who think the share prices of the firms concerned fail to recognise their prospects.

London-based Premier expanded in the North Sea amid the downturn triggered by the crude price plunge from 2014 to 2016. Canaccord Genuity noted Premier Oil had also amassed enjoyed potentially valuable exploration positions in Mexico and off the Falkland Islands.

However, the investment bank has cut its target prices for oil and gas company shares by three per cent on average. That reflects the expectation that the crude price will remain under pressure. Production in the US is booming although the outlook for the global economy is unclear.