SHETLAND oil pioneer Hurricane Energy is eyeing acquisition opportunities in the North Sea following a remarkable recovery in the fortunes of the firm.

The company came close to being taken over by bond holders in June last year before the High Court in London rejected the restructuring plan concerned.

It has been a big beneficiary of the dramatic increase in oil prices fuelled by the recovery from the pandemic, which gained renewed impetus after Russia attacked Ukraine.

The scale of the turnaround was made clear in results for 2021 published by Hurricane yesterday. These show Hurricane generated $18m profit after tax last year after losing $625m in the preceding year.

READ MORE: Opinion - North Sea believers are being vindicated amid Ukraine war fallout

The company faced big challenges amid the downturn triggered by the pandemic after slashing estimates of the size of the Lancaster discovery, which it brought into production in 2019.

It has been generating so much cash from the production from Lancaster in recent months that it expects to pay off bond holders in July and to have around $60m left over.

The company feels able to shift its focus to growth opportunities following what chief executive Antony Maris described as a year of profound change.

The Herald: Hurricane Energy chief executive Antony MarisHurricane Energy chief executive Antony Maris

It is weighing up a range of opportunities in the North Sea against a favourable political backdrop.

“The UK Government’s renewed emphasis on security of supply is welcome,” said Mr Maris, adding: “We have opportunities both within our existing portfolio, and in new opportunities in the UK oil and gas sector.”

A spokesperson for Hurricane said the company is considering and evaluating both further drilling on its own assets and acquisitions involving assets on the UK Continental Shelf.

READ MORE: North Sea firm recruits heavy hitter as it eyes acquisitions

Hurricane Energy shares closed up 0.26p at 9.53p. They sold for 60p in June 2019 after Hurricane started production from Lancaster.

Hurricane generated $136m cash from its operations last year. It achieved an average cash surplus of $36.42 per barrel against $14.6/bbl in 2020.