By Maximilian Clarke

BP (LSE: BP) have announced investments totalling some £10 billion in order to safeguard oil and gas production in the North Sea.

The UK Government today granted BP and its partners - Shell, ConocoPhillips and Chevron - approval to proceed with the £4.5 billion Clair Ridge project, the second phase of development of the giant Clair field, west of the Shetland Islands. This investment alone may provide up to 3,500 jobs at a time of worsening joblessness, and will further support the UK’s oil industry.

Commenting on the approval, UK Prime Minister David Cameron said: “I am delighted to give the go-ahead for this project; this investment is great news for Aberdeen and the country and provides a massive boost for jobs and growth. It shows the confidence that there is to invest in the North Sea - we have cutting edge technology, world class skills and expertise and a UK Government that is committed to do what we can to secure future investment.”

For BP - whose share of the total investment in the four projects will be around £4 billion - this represents the highest level of annual investment the company has ever made into the UK North Sea. Over the next few years, BP will be bringing on stream more new major project developments in the UK than it has ever done over a comparable time period.

“Although it began over forty years ago, the story of the North Sea oil industry has a long way yet to run. BP has produced some five billion barrels of oil and gas equivalent so far from the region and we believe we have the potential for over three billion more,” said Bob Dudley, BP’s group chief executive, who will be speaking in Aberdeen later today.