COMMENTS by Royal Dutch Shell finance chief Jessica Uhl on the recent ‘fantastic’ performance of the group’s North Sea assets provided a particularly notable vote of confidence in an operation that has faced tough times.

Ms Uhl only moved into the influential post in March last year. Such changes of the guard often herald a shift in priorities at firms.

However, having taken a good look at the North Sea business the American executive appears confident it has growth potential.

She noted Shell has started investing in new projects in the area again while the team running the business has done a great job in boosting returns from existing operations.

Shell made a promising looking find off Shetland with BP recently.

The increase in the oil price since late 2016 has clearly helped, even if crude is still trading at around $40 per barrel below the $115/bbl it fetched in June 2014.

The hope will be that with the outlook for crude prices appearing relatively stable, Shell will help drive a recovery in the North Sea industry following three grim years.

Retrenchment by Shell and other oil firms in response to the crude price fall between 2014 and late 2016 put pressure on legions of services firms and entailed thousands of job losses.

Ms Uhl made clear Shell will focus on plum assets and keep bearing down on costs .