PREMIER oil expects to get official clearance to develop two more North Sea oil fields next month after a strong performance in the area helped it generate $180 million (£145m) cash in the first half.

The London-based company increased average production in the UK by 40 per cent to 57,700 barrels of oil equivalent per day in the six months to June from 41,100 boped in the same period last year.

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Premier increased investment in the North Sea amid the downturn triggered by the crude price plunge.

The company highlighted an increased contribution from the Catcher field south east of Aberdeen, which it brought into production in December 2017 with Cairn Energy.

Premier’s 50% share of production from Catcher averaged 34,800 boepd and the field achieved 99% operating efficiency.

It noted: “Formal approval for the two Catcher satellite oil fields, Catcher North and Laverda, is expected next month.”

The new fields are expected to help the firms to maintain total production in the Catcher area at 66,000 boepd.

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Work on the bumper Tolmount development in the Southern North Sea is on track. First gas is expected next year.

The Solan field West of Shetland “performed well” with output averaging 4,000 boepd. When Premier started production from Solan in April 2016 it expected to be producing 20,000 to 25,000 boed from the field by the end of that year.

The company has noted poor reservoir performance on Solan. It plans to drill a new production well next Spring.

Premier’s total output averaged 84,100 boepd in the first half, up 10% from 76,100 boepd last time. It has operations in Asia.