NORTH Sea oil and gas pioneer Algy Cluff has said there is still lots to go for in the area amid challenging market conditions although he is shifting some of his attention overseas.

On Monday Mr Cluff announced that he planned to step down as chief executive of the North Sea- focused Cluff Natural Resources business to give him time to spend on other interests including the launch of a new charity.

Yesterday, the 77-year-old former Grenadier Guards officer revealed the charity will care for the graves of members of the British armed forces which lie in other countries.

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Called the Remembrance Trust, the charity will focus on the graves of people killed in campaigns before the First World War.

“All over the world there are graves and memorials to British soldiers who were killed which are not being looked after,” said Mr Cluff.

“The Commonwealth War Graves Commission does an admirable job but only so far as people who were killed in the first or second world wars.”

Mr Cluff will try to raise as much money as possible for the trust. He expects to spend one day a week on trust business.

The entrepreneur will remain chairman of London-based Cluff Natural Resources, which he reckons has the potential to achieve significant growth in the North Sea.

Renowned for starting the firm which made the giant Buchan find off Scotland in 1975, CCP, Mr Cluff welcomed signs confidence is returning to the North Sea following a long downturn.

Oil and gas firms slashed investment in the area in response to the sharp fall in the crude price since 2014.

However, the partial recovery in the oil price since late 2016 has boosted sentiment.

Cluff Natural Resources has been working on exploration licences in the Southern North Sea won since 2014. The company describes this as a relatively underexplored area in which finds could be brought into production relatively quickly.

Mr Cluff said: “The North Sea still contains a lot of gas in particular.”

Cluff Natural Resources applied for more acreage in the latest North Sea licensing round.

Cluff Natural Resources has sharpened its focus on the North Sea since shelving plans to produce gas by burning coal under the Firth of Forth.

The company had been investigating the potential of underground coal gasification but ran into official opposition.

Yesterday Mr Cluff renewed his attack on the Scottish Government’s decision to block coal gasification on environmental grounds.

He said it should be possible to generate huge amounts of gas from coal deposits offshore safely and quickly.

“If the greens had been as rampant 50 years ago as they are now we probably would not have had a North Sea oil and gas industry,” claimed Mr Cluff.

He said the Buchan find was one of the two biggest highlights of a long career in the natural resources business, which included hunting for gold in Africa.

The other was making the giant Geita gold find in Tanzania with the former Cluff Resources in 1994.

“That was our nemesis as we were taken over; but that’s capitalism,” said Mr Cluff, referring to the hostile takeover of Cluff Resources by Ashanti.

CNR’s finance director, Graham Swindells, will succeed Mr Cluff as chief executive on 28 February.