The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) has published research drawing attention to the potential of “small pools” of oil and gas in UK waters.
It described the estimate of more than three billion barrels of oil untapped underneath the UK continental shelf as a “very significant opportunity”.
The OGA said the North Sea could have a new lease of life if the small pools are successfully tapped.
It warned, however, that new technologies may be required.
OGA head of technology Carlo Procaccini said: “We recognise the challenges operators are facing to develop these marginal oil and gas accumulations. Small pools represent a very significant opportunity to maximise economic recovery from the UK continental shelf.
“Technology has an important role to play to reduce the cost of development wells, design optimised subsea infrastructure to existing host facilities and develop efficient standalone concepts.
“We are committed to working together with the industry, the Technology Leadership Board and the new Oil and Gas Technology Centre (OGTC) which has dedicated one of their Solution Centres to unlock the small pools potential.”
The new publication from the OGA follows a series of events it held last year focussing on “small pool” reserves of oil.
These were led by the National Subsea Research Initiative (NSRI).
NSRI project director Dr Gordon Drummond said: “Small pools have a national importance in terms of maximising economic recovery and they must be considered as an industry asset if they are to be capitalised upon.
“Following an extensive mapping exercise, we now know exactly where these small pools are located and what is required to unlock their potential.
“If the subsea industry can rise to the challenge of economically tapping into these pools, the North Sea could have a whole new lease of life.”
Dr Drummond added: “Technology is only part of the solution, the industry must be much more receptive to innovation – there must be a willingness to work more collaboratively on multi-field applications and on access to infrastructure.”