Statoil is to invest £4.3bn in a North Sea oil field, bringing hundreds of jobs to the north east of Scotland.

The Norwegian company said the investment in the Mariner field was the largest new offshore development in the UK in more than a decade.

Statoil expects to start production from Mariner in 2017, pending final approval by the UK authorities.

More than 700 jobs will be created, including 200 onshore posts in Aberdeen.

The field is expected to produce for 30 years, with average production of about 55,000 barrels of oil a day from 2017 to 2020.

The Mariner Field is located on the East Shetland Platform of the UK North Sea, about 150km (93 miles) east of the Shetland Isles.

Statoil is the operator of the field, with 65.11% equity. Other partners include JX Nippon Exploration and Production (UK) Limited (28.89%) and Cairn Energy (6%).

The development concept includes a production, drilling and quarters (PDQ) platform based on a steel jacket, with a floating storage unit (FSU).

More than 140 reservoir targets are planned for Mariner.

‘Good fit’

Executive vice president for development and production international in Statoil, Lars Christian Backer, said: “Statoil has extensive heavy oil experiences from offshore fields in Norway and Brazil.

“The Mariner field was discovered in 1981 and Statoil entered the licence as operator in 2007 with the aim of finally unlocking the resources.

“We are satisfied that we now are able to make an investment decision for a profitable development of the Mariner field.”

He added: “The Mariner project is a good strategic fit for Statoil.

“We are the world’s largest offshore operator and have a portfolio of attractive projects in some of the most prolific basins in the world.

“The North Sea is a core area for Statoil, and we look forward to taking a leading role in further developing also the UK part of this basin, leveraging our expertise in stocks.”

Industry body Oil and Gas UK welcomed Statoil’s announcement.

Economics director Mike Tholen said: “The largest offshore development in the UK for a decade, Mariner requires pioneering technology and will bring hundreds of high-skilled, long-lasting jobs across the country, hundreds of millions of pounds in additional tax revenues, as well as crucial security to our energy supplies.

“Expected to produce oil and gas for 30 years, this project – and others recently given the go-ahead on the UK continental shelf – will help to boost production and stem the decline we have seen in recent years, so helping the full economic benefit of our reserves to be realised in time.”

‘Tremendous news’

Energy Minister Fergus Ewing described the investment as “tremendous news for Scotland’s energy industry”.

He said: “There remains more value still to be extracted from the North Sea than there has been to date.

“With up to 24 billion barrels of oil still to be recovered, with a potential value of around £1.5 trillion, North Sea oil and gas is attracting record investment levels with capital investment of £8.5bn in 2011 and an expected £11.5bn in 2012.

“This announcement builds on positive announcements by Global Energy Group and Dana Petroleum this month, who are investing further in Scotland to capitalise on the potential of our energy resources, which will remain an enormous economic resource for decades to come.”