SCOTLAND’S oil reserves which were supposed to have run out by now look set to last for decades after BP produced the first oil from the giant Clair Ridge oilfield west of Shetland.

Discovered 40 years ago, Clair Ridge is now able to be a production field thanks to developments in technology.

At its peak it will produce 120,000 barrels a day, equivalent to 10% of UK oil production.

The Clair field is 47 miles (75km) west of Shetland and was discovered in 1977 with oil starting to flow in 2005. The whole field is estimated to contain seven billion barrels of oil and gas.

Clair Ridge is the second part of Clair to be developed and BP said new platforms and pipelines needed investment of more than £4.5 billion.

Even better news for the North Sea industry is that BP are evaluating a third development for Clair.

Welcoming the first oil from Clair Ridge, Bernard Looney, BP’s upstream chief executive, said: “The start-up of Clair Ridge is a culmination of decades of persistence.

“Clair was the first discovery we made in the west of Shetland area in 1977. But trying to access and produce its seven billion barrels proved very difficult.

“We had to leverage our technology and ingenuity to successfully bring on the first phase of this development in 2005.

“And now more than 40 years after the original discovery, we have first oil from Clair Ridge, one of the largest recent investments in the UK.”

Deidre Michie, chief executive of industry body Oil & Gas UK, added: “First oil at Clair Ridge represents a major milestone in BP’s developments west of Shetland, the frontier region which is likely to have the greatest potential to expand current UK production.

“It’s greatly encouraging to see one of the basin’s original explorers using new, ambitious approaches and pioneering technology to help lead a revival in production.”

BP stated: “With such expectation riding on its shoulders, it’s no wonder that the Clair Ridge project has been built to last.

“Thanks to a capital investment in excess of £4.5bn, two new bridge-linked platforms and new export pipelines are expected, at peak, to supply 10% of the UK’s oil production, while also supporting jobs for years to come and showcasing the best of what offshore UK engineering has to offer.”

UK Energy Minister Claire Perry said: “The North Sea is crucial for the UK’s energy security and helping businesses maximise economic recovery there is an aim for this government.

“This will allow the North Sea to continue to be a hub for the high-skilled, well-paid jobs at the centre of our modern industrial strategy.”

Scotland’s Energy Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, also hailed the news, saying: “I welcome the announcement by BP of first oil from Clair Ridge, as this is major long-term investment in the North Sea that will also boost activity in Scotland’s oil and gas supply chain.

“Clair Ridge is a major development that aims to recover up to 640m barrels of oil equivalent and it demonstrates both the investment potential that the North Sea still holds and the sector’s world class innovation and project delivery capabilities.

“The Scottish Government is committed to supporting the sector, recognising both the significant opportunities remaining and the importance of securing energy supplies from secure, well-regulated sources, such as Scotland’s continental shelf, as we transition our energy system.”