Oil and gas production in the North Sea is now expected to be about 10 per cent lower over the next few years than previously thought, according to the annual survey from the UK Offshore Operators’ Association.

The main reason is described as “poor reservoir performance”: in other words, wells not yielding as much oil and gas as had been hoped.

The faster than expected decline in production is bad news for Britain’s energy security, increasing the country’s dependence on imported oil and gas, and also for Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Although there is still an estimated 16bn-25bn barrels of oil equivalent in oil and gas left to be extracted, old wells are running dry and new wells are generally small. The glory days seem over.

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