NORTH Sea-focused Rockrose Energy has seen its shares surge around 10 per cent after the company said the lives of two fields had been extended for five years as it hunts for acquisitions in the area.

Read more: RockRose hails exciting acquisition

Rockrose said the production lives of the Ross and Blake fields north east of Aberdeen are being extended from 2024 to at least 2029 in a development that will allow the firm to book around 4.2 million barrels oil equivalent (MMboe) additional reserves.

News of the extensions will be studied with interest in the North Sea oil and gas industry amid the official drive to maximise the economic recovery of the UK’s oil and gas resources.

RockRose has also made progress with plans to bring finds into development.

It said yesterday that plans for the development of the Tain field are progressing and are expected to be submitted to the regulator this year. As Tain lies close to Blake it may be possible to link it with production facilities for that field.

In October RockRose agreed with Shell to develop the Arran field 150 miles east of Aberdeen.

Read more: Shell provides fresh boost for North Sea oil and gas industry

The firm's plans highlight the role that independents such as RockRose are playing in helping to stimulate activity in the North Sea, following the deep downturn triggered by the crude price plunge from 2014.

Oil and gas firms slashed spending on North Sea projects amid the resulting pressure on cash. Majors retrenched in the area with some focusing on a narrower range of plum fields or shifting investment overseas.

Read more: One in three North Sea oil jobs 'lost' since 2015

RockRose’s executive chairman Andrew Austin said: “The extension of field life at Ross and Blake, supporting the Tain development, further grows the Group’s 2P (proved and probable) reserve base, demonstrating the impact of our continued investment in organic growth.”

The progress at RockRose has provided vindication for Mr Austin’s decision to start the firm in 2015. He felt the downturn that followed the oil price slump created opportunities to build a substantial North Sea business quickly helped by acquisitions.

Executives running other independents, including Parkmead Group’s Tom Cross, have noted that assets have been put up for sale at attractive prices in recent years.

Read more: Tom Cross eyes North Sea deals as sellers 'get realistic' amid downturn

A former investment banker, Mr Austin has master-minded a number of acquisitions at RockRose that look to have been well-timed.

RockRose acquired interests in Ross and Blake and a range of other fields from Japan’s Idemitsu in 2017.

It acquired a 20.43% interest in Arran from Korean-owned Dana Petroleum for a nominal sum in August.

Mr Austin said: “We remain focussed on continuing to invest in our portfolio to extend field life where possible and to explore options for further value accretive acquisitions.”

RockRose said the Arran development is progressing to schedule with first gas planned for the first quarter of 2021, allowing it to book 8.6MMboe 2P reserves.

The company expects to be able to fund its share of the development cost from the cashflow generated from its North Sea production.

RockRose expects to produce an average of 10,000 to 12,000 barrels oil equivalent daily in the current year.

It had $120m cash at the start of the year and is debt free.

Arran is expected to produce 21,000 barrels of oil equivalent daily at peak.

The company had 35.9MMboe reserves at January 1, including some held in fields in the Dutch North Sea and onshore.

The group also holds around 15m barrels oil equivalent contingent 2C resources, whose commerciality has yet to be confirmed.

Shares in RockRose closed up 60p at 705p giving the firm a stock market capitalisation of around £90m.

In September RockRose said the options for extending the lives of Blake and Ross, which are operated by Repsol Sinopec, included prolonging the life of the existing floating production, storage and offloading vessel used on the fields or replacing it. It did not provide further details yesterday.