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A major discovery of oil has been made in the North Sea, adding to optimism about the longevity of the UK’s seasoned oilfields.

German firm Wintershall yesterday said the discovery, estimated at 60 to 100 million barrels, was made at its Blakeney well 150 miles east of Aberdeen.

The discovery is sizeable in terms of recent finds, which typically come in at around 25 million barrels for wells in a sector where production is now into its fifth decade.

Wintershall, the oil arm of German chemicals group BASF, said the discovery would help it achieve a target to raise oil and gas output levels by a factor of 12 in five years.

Martin Bachmann, a member of Wintershall’s board responsible for exploration and production, said he was upbeat about oil prospects in the region.

“We see a lot of life in the North Sea,” he said.

“The oil majors are dropping their investments and are off to drill in Brazil, but we think there is still a lot of potential in the region.”

The size of oil and gas discoveries in the North Sea has been dropping in recent years, although bumper finds are occasionally made such as the June discovery in the Catcher field, where up to 300 million barrels are estimated to lie and in which Wintershall has a 20% stake.

In July, Wintershall made one of the most significant finds off Norway so far this year at Maria, with estimated volumes of 250-520 million barrels of oil.

Mr Bachmann said the German oil firm had made five oil discoveries in one year and would focus on developing those finds in the coming years.

“The focus for the next few years is more exploration, but we will also focus on developing the finds we have so far made,” he said.

“Current production off Norway and the northern part of the British North Sea is 4000 barrels a day. We are aiming for 50,000 barrels a day by 2015.

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