ENQUEST’s experience with the venerable Magnus field could encourage hopes the shake-up in the North Sea may be good news for an area that seemed to be in rapid decline.

EnQuest bought Magnus in 2018 from BP, which cut its exposure to large areas of the North Sea amid the downturn triggered from the crude price plunge from 2014.

Oil firm highlights 'significant' North Sea opportunity

This left a range of majors feeling there was little point in investing in projects involving mature North Sea fields that could not have a material impact on their earnings.

BP and Shell decided to focus spending on bumper projects they reckoned could be in production for years, including a handful West of Shetland.

Chevron and ConocoPhillips are shifting billions of dollars investment from the North Sea to the shale fields of their home country, in which operating costs are lower than off the UK.

But outside the ranks of the giants, the likes of EnQuest and Premier Oil have shown they can achieve good returns from investing in assets bought from bigger fish in recent years.

North Sea fields help oil and gas stalwart generate huge amounts of cash

New players such as Chrysaor Energy have won multi-billion backing from international financiers for expansion drives that will involve investing heavily in North Sea assets acquired from majors.

While there has been a partial recovery in the oil price since late 2016, amid moves by big exporters to curb output, the prospects of a return to the boom conditions seen early in the decade remain remote. However, the price may have risen to a level that could prompt a range of firms that bought assets amid the downturn to support a meaningful increase in North Sea field development and upgrade activity.

Some majors may have completed the bulk of their rationalisation work but the shake up in the North Sea has a way to run.

America’s ExxonMobil is thought to be preparing to sell a $2bn North Sea portfolio.