EQUINOR has underlined its confidence in the potential of a huge find off Shetland as shares in oil services heavyweight Wood surged after it boosted hopes of recovery in the North Sea.

These had been dented earlier this week when Equinor said the Mariner field east of Shetland may contain around a third, 95 million barrels (mmbbls), less than expected, at 180mmbbls.

The news came weeks after Shell shelved plans to develop the giant Cambo find West of Shetland with Siccar Point Energy following protests by environmental groups.

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The Mariner reserve downgrade may spark concern about the future of the giant Rosebank discovery off Shetland, which Equinor has been considering developing with Siccar Point and other firms.

However, a spokesperson for Equinor said yesterday: “The Mariner reserve estimate has no implication for the Rosebank project.”

He added: “We continue to mature the Rosebank project and have a good dialogue with UK authorities on the next steps.”

Meanwhile Aberdeen-based Wood said it won significant work in the conventional energy business last year.

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Oil and gas firms slashed spending in response to the plunge in oil and gas prices that followed the onset of the pandemic in 2020.

The recovery in commodity prices that has accompanied the rollout of vaccines may have encouraged some to loosen the purse strings.

Wood appears to be benefitting from moves by oil and gas companies operating in areas such as the North Sea to try to increase efficiency and to reduce emissions associated with production.

The company said: “In the fourth quarter, we secured around $160 million of contracts for oil and gas operations work in the UK’s North Sea. This work will include optimising operations, increasing production efficiency and driving decarbonisation.”

READ MORE: Is North Sea industry crying wolf about threat of windfall tax amid gas price surge?

Wood said it enjoyed a stronger performance in the second half of 2021 and saw improving momentum across its businesses, which include operations in a range of sectors around the world.

Yesterday’s share price rise also followed news that Wood has decided to sell its built environment consulting arm, which an analyst said could potentially command a bumper valuation.

The sale forms part of a strategy to position Wood to capitalise on the transition to a lower carbon energy system by increasing its presence in markets related to ‘green’ energy sources and the decarbonisation of industries.

Wood said it made good progress in those markets last year.

HeraldScotland: Wood chief executive Robin Watson Picture: WoodWood chief executive Robin Watson Picture: Wood

However, chief executive Robin Watson told The Herald recently that he expected oil and gas to remain an important part of the energy mix “over the next decade, if not generation”.

In an update on trading in 2021, Wood said results for the year are expected to be in line with expectations set out in an update issued in November. The group said then it had launched a review of its Built Environment business.

Mr Watson said yesterday: “The Board has concluded that a sale of our Built Environment business is the best option to deliver value for our shareholders. It will also strengthen the Group as we look to capitalise on the significant opportunities ahead of us.”

Wood said a sales agreement is expected to be announced in the second quarter.

Nikhil Gupta at CITI investment bank said: “We believe the potential transaction could unlock meaningful value.”

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Equinor brought Mariner into production in 2019 amid fanfare with partners including Siccar Point Energy.

Siccar Point said it felt Equinor’s proposed reserves reduction on the Mariner field was premature.

Rosebank was discovered in 2004 by a group of firms led by Chevron.

Wood shares closed up 40.8p at 240p.