IT might have been expected BP would be positive on the North Sea in its annual results presentation after announcing two discoveries off Scotland last week when Royal Dutch Shell made upbeat noises about the area.

Nevertheless, the extent of the enthusiasm BP showed yesterday was notable and will encourage hopes investment levels are set to increase in the North Sea following three grim years of retrenchment.

The results announcement made clear that after risking huge sums developing giant finds West of Shetland in spite of the sharp fall in oil prices since 2014 BP is generating big profits on its output in the area.

The experience appears to have gone well enough that BP is already thinking about developing two other big fields off Shetland. The company included these in a portfolio of potential drivers of future growth, along with a couple in other areas of the North Sea.

BP’s comment that the finds announced last week made 2017 its most successful year of exploration in the North Sea since 2008 will likely fuel hopes they could be huge.

2008 was the year BP made the bumper Kinnoull discovery, which it brought into production amid fanfare in 2014. Upstream boss, Bernard Looney, indicated BP plans to keep drilling North Sea exploration wells for years.

Put all that together and you have a good advert for the North Sea as a place in which to find oil and bring it into production, especially if Brent crude remains above $50 per barrel.

But with firms such as BP determined to keep a focus on costs and efficiency, increased North Sea activity may not mean an end to the pressures on the supply chain.