BP on Friday announced the first oil production from the giant Clair Ridge project in the West of Shetland region.
BP’s co-venturers are Shell, Chevron and ConocoPhillips.
The development, which required capital investment in excess of £4.5 billion, is designed for 40 years of production.
Clair Ridge is the second phase of development of the Clair field, 75 kilometres West of Shetland.
The field has an estimated seven billion barrels of hydrocarbons.
Two new, bridge-linked platforms and oil and gas export pipelines have been constructed as part of the Clair Ridge project.
The project has been designed to recover an estimated 640 million barrels of oil with production expected to ramp up to a peak at plateau level of 120,000 barrels of oil per day.
Bernard Looney, BP chief executive Upstream, said: “The start-up of Clair Ridge is a culmination of decades of persistence.
“Clair was the first discovery we made in the West of Shetland area in 1977.
“But trying to access and produce its seven billion barrels proved very difficult.
“We had to leverage our technology and ingenuity to successfully bring on the first phase of this development in 2005.
“And now more than 40 years after the original discovery, we have first oil from Clair Ridge, one of the largest recent investments in the UK.
“This is a major milestone for our Upstream business and highlights BP’s continued commitment to the North Sea region.”
Clair Ridge is the first offshore deployment of BP’s enhanced oil recovery technology, LoSal, which has the potential to increase oil recovery from reservoirs by using reduced salinity water in water injection.
This is expected to result in up to 40 million additional barrels being cost-effectively recovered over the lifetime of the development.
Oil from Clair is exported to the Sullom Voe Terminal on Shetland.
A new 14.6-kilometre, six-inch gas export pipeline tying Clair Ridge into the West of Shetland Pipeline Systems (WOSPS) was also installed as part of the project.
The WOSPS transports gas from West of Shetland to the Sullom Voe Terminal.
Andy Samuel, Chief Executive at the UK Oil and Gas Authority said: “First oil from the newly built Clair Ridge platform is a major milestone for the UKCS.
“The OGA continues to view the West of Shetland as strategically important with substantial remaining potential.
“The Clair Field has in excess of 7 billion barrels in place and is expected to sustain production for many decades to come, with significant scope for further phases of development.
“We welcome BP’s ongoing commitment to MER UK.”
Oil & Gas UK chief executive Deirdre Michie added: “First oil at Clair Ridge represents a major milestone in BP’s developments West of Shetland, the frontier region which is likely to have the greatest potential to expand current UK production.
“It’s greatly encouraging to see one of the basin’s original explorers using new, ambitious approaches and pioneering technology to help lead a revival in production.
“This is another firm step towards maximising economic recovery from the basin.”