North Sea oil and gas workers expect to enjoy wage rises up to 10 per cent this year as the sector continues to benefit from “unprecedented” growth.

Buoyed by developments such as EnQuest’s £4 billion Kraken project and Dana Petroleum’s plans to invest £1bn in its Western Isles scheme, a new study also estimates that 20,000 jobs could be created across the industry this year.

The survey of more than 10,000 staff by recruitment website Oil and Gas People, published today, found wages were being pushed higher by demand for skilled staff in Africa and the Middle East, with some in the UK enjoying pay rises of up to 30 per cent last year.

The average North Sea wage now stands at £80,960, up 10 per cent on a year ago. The highest gains were seen among offshore drilling workers, engineers and health and safety staff.

Kevin Forbes, chief executive of Oil and Gas People, said: “Many UK candidates are heading abroad to earn high wages with a huge demand for qualified expats globally.

“The only way the North Sea industry can keep them in the UK is to raise wages even higher or invest more in creating a new generation of highly skilled oil and gas workers.”

More than two-thirds of those surveyed said they were confident about the future of the industry, with 56 per cent of those highlighting tax breaks such as the heavy oil allowances made available for the Kraken project.

The scheme, east of Shetland, is 60 per cent owned by Aberdeen-based EnQuest, which estimates the project will support about 1,000 operational jobs a year over its 25-year lifespan. Production is expected to begin in 2016, the year after first oil from Dana’s Western Isles development, which despite its name is also in the northern North Sea.