ENERGY company Total has begun production at a North Sea project which could supply the equivalent of 40,000 barrels of oil per day.

Bosses said the second phase of the West Franklin field, about 150 miles (241km) west of Aberdeen, has “significant reserves” and also promised new “exploration opportunities”.

It confirmed it has begun gas and condensate production for the field, with the project including the drilling of three new oil production wells and the installation of two new platforms.

Total discovered the West Franklin field in 2003, with production beginning four years later in 2007.

The second phase of the field could develop oil reserves which are the equivalent of 85 million barrels, according to the company.

Michael Borrell, Total’s senior vice president for exploration and production in Europe and Central Asia, said: “With the start of the West Franklin phase two project, Total consolidates the production capacity of its operated Elgin/Franklin hub.

“The hub holds significant reserves as well as promising exploration opportunities.”

Total has had a presence in the UK since 1962, with more than 90% of the company’s production in the UK coming from fields in two areas of the North Sea, the Elgin/Franklin area and the Alwyn Dunbar area.

The oil and gas firm is due to commence production later this year in a third area to the west of Shetland, with the start up of the Laggan-Tormore project.