Energy giant Centrica has reaffirmed its commitment to supporting jobs and business within the region’s offshore energy industry as it presses ahead with its plans to plough more than £1bn into southern North Sea gas exploration.

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The parent company of British Gas revealed that it was just weeks away from drawing first gas from its £400m southern North Sea York field project, as part of an investment drive that will secure thousands of jobs – especially in the east.

The pledge was made yesterday as the firm published its preliminary results showing its gas and oil profitability had increased 20pc to £919m last year – while earnings also jumped 14pc to £2.7bn across the Centrica group as a whole.

And this week energy companies heard that more than £3bn would be invested into new wells in the southern North Sea as the gas industry gets set for an upsurge in activity, which includes the £1.4bn Cygnus project, in which Centrica has a majority share.

However, the firm’s results were slammed by consumers who were angered by its £606m profit surge just months after raising energy bills.

Greg McKenna, regional director for the southern North Sea said: “Centrica Energy has seen another successful year, delivering against our commitment to grow the business through a combination of acquisitions and exploration activity.

“We have committed to continued investment in the North Sea, as well as internationally, and the southern North Sea remains one of our strategic hubs.

“We are continuing to invest to explore and develop the Southern Basin, including through our £400m York project – which is due to come on stream in the coming weeks – and the £1.4 billion Cygnus project in which Centrica Energy has a 48.75pc share.

“These projects will secure thousands of jobs across the supply chain, from the main contractors building and installing the platforms, to the local businesses that will continue to support the offshore workers and the companies that service the drilling operations.

“These are long term projects that will operate for decades to come, securing gas supplies for the UK and jobs across the local area, including most notably at the Easington Terminal, which has recently been upgraded as part of the York project.

“As we move into a new phase of operations in the southern North Sea, we will continue to see a positive impact on the local supply chain from hotels to heliports.”

Coming soon, a special Insight Energy supplement exploring the issues affecting the industry across the East of England.

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