WOOD Mackenzie’s claim that all eyes are on West of Shetland provides a further sign of the oil and gas industry’s excitement about the potential of what remains a relatively under-explored area.

The energy consultancy reckons there is probably more oil and gas yet to be found West of Shetland than in any other part of the UK North Sea.

Prominent players such as American oil heavyweight Apache and chemicals giant Ineos will risk big sums in the hope of making bumper finds in the area this year.

However, firms will have to enjoy remarkable success with the drill bit off Shetland if growth in the area is to provide meaningful compensation for the shrinkage likely in more mature stretches of the UK North Sea.

Many fields will be decommissioned in coming years as they reach the end of their useful lives.

Firms have slashed investment in new projects amid the sharp fall in oil prices since 2014.

Wood Mackenzie noted indications the partial recovery in the crude price over the past 15 months has encouraged some firms to start investing again. Fourteen projects are in contention for approval.

But they are not on the scale of the giant developments approved amid the boom that ended in 2014, the last of which is due onstream soon.

The implications for firms in the supply chain are sobering.