ONE of the North Sea’s most successful oil and gas entrepreneurs has insisted the area still has a future although the outlook is bleak following the crude price plunge triggered by the coronavirus.

Oil and gas firms have been slashing spending in the area in response to the fall in the Brent crude price from around $70 in January to about $30/bbl.

Oil heavyweight tries to cut price of bumper North Sea acquisition amid slump caused by coronavirus

However, Bruce Dingwall, who helped grow North Sea focused Venture Production into a £1 billion business, said there is lots to go for on the acreage off Scotland. The fall in commodity prices may have created opportunities that people who are prepared to take risks could capitalise on.

“You get a good well in the North Sea and you get a 12,000 barrels of oil a day well; that’s just an awful amount of oil, huge, and they’re still happening,” said Mr Dingwall, who developed Venture into one of the most successful independents after working for big firms.

“In 1998 I was raising money for Venture, it was $10 a barrel and some people thought that’s a counter-intuitive idea and others said it was not going to work but it was a great industrial success,” he noted.

After spending more than 30 years working in the industry Mr Dingwall is convinced the oil price will recover although the speed and quantum of any rise may be impossible to predict. He reckons the best opportunities may crop up at what proves to be near the bottom of the cycle.

Have big oil firms really got the message on climate change?

“If you’re going to invest in an oil company you put your money in when the oil price is low.”

With giants looking to reduce exposure to the North Sea Mr Dingwall reckons there is scope for independents to follow the approach taken by Venture, which expanded quickly after buying assets from bigger fish.

Mr Dingwall is concentrating on his attempt to grow a Trinidad-focused oil and gas firm into an independent of scale.

He heads Trinity Exploration and Production, which made $21.8 million (£18m) underlying profit in 2019, against $19.2m in 2018. Mr Dingwall said Trinity could cope with tough market conditions. The firm has low operating costs and a strong balance sheet. It runs its business development function from Edinburgh.