Shell is committed to a long-term future in the North Sea, the man in charge of the company’s international exploration and production business has said.

Delivering an upbeat assessment of Shell’s future, upstream international director Andy Brown said that its $2 billion annual spending in the region over the next three years was proof of its continued commitment.

Most of that expenditure will be devoured by Shell’s sizable non-operated positions in large new projects such as Clair Ridge and Quad 204, both operated by BP.

As far as Shell’s operated assets are concerned, work to improve asset integrity was beginning to show through with increased operational efficiency and uptime.

Consolidating production around core hubs would be central to Shell’s North Sea future but that meant “isolated or diminishing” assets could be divested if they did not fit with that strategy, he admitted.

Speaking in an interview at Offshore Europe, Brown said: “Our focus is on creating significant assets with sustained longer-term life and concentrating the business around core hubs.

If I look at Shell’s equity production, this is a business that has seen some decline. I am looking for higher production numbers in future years.”

However, Brown refused to go into detail about current or expected production rates.

The fact is we are investing $2 billion a year for the next three years,” he said.

Meanwhile I am quite excited we are getting on top of our asset integrity.”

Brown said Shell’s North Sea strategy fitted with the wider group’s targets of “sustaining the company’s upstream engine. That relies on us being able to have high uptime, being able to get the most out of the reservoirs, getting good recovery factor, having good water injection, good well and reservoir management and maintain asset integrity,” he said.

The upbeat outlook comes despite disappointment at the Fram field in the central North Sea earlier this year.

Shell said in February it had ditched plans to develop Fram using a floating production, storage and offloading vessel after “unexpected initial results” from early development drilling caused a downgrade of reserves.