At its peak in 2000, the North Sea was supplying more than 6 million barrels of oil per day, and Shell owned 10% of that production. Since then, oil production in the North Sea has fallen by two-thirds, and Shell sold off a further 50% of its production assets in the region as part of a $30 billion divestment program to generate free cash flow and focus on more profitable regions. Shell is not alone; the North Sea has seen billions of dollars of assets change hands over the past five years as oil and gas companies play hot potato with what could become a very costly decommissioning effort. The North Sea is still the most active offshore drilling region in the world, with 184 active rigs. With falling production and low margins exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, operators will need to find a way to keep operations in the North Sea profitable in the long term.
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