FOLLOWING encouraging announcements from several firms, Royal Dutch Shell may have provided the clearest signal yet that brighter times are in prospect in the North Sea following three grim years.

After the company announced bumper profits, chief executive Ben van Beurden seemed keen to flag the significance of Shell’s decision last month to redevelop the giant Penguins field off Shetland.

He noted the move followed a period in which Shell focused on selling off North Sea assets and cutting costs in response to the sharp fall in oil prices since 2014.

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With Mr van Beurden saying there’s more to come, Shell appears now to be more interested in growth opportunities in an area he reckons is undergoing a rejuvenation.

The partial recovery in the crude price since 2016 has helped.

Mr van Beurden noted Shell’s interest in the West of Shetland, area where it has just made a find with BP .

With one of the biggest players in the global industry investing in North Sea field developments and exploration other companies are likely to sit up and take notice.

Oil services firms can look forward to work volumes increasing following years of shrinkage.

However, there is unlikely to be a dramatic improvement in trading conditions in the supply chain any time soon.