North Sea oil rig (2)

The North Sea's oil and gas industry does have a future, according to the chief executive of one of the world's largest oil firms.

Patrick Pouyanne, chief executive of Total, said there was "no doubt" about the industry's future in the North Sea, despite reports of job cuts hitting 65,000 in 2015 and investment plummeting.

Speaking at the opening of a new gas plant in the Shetland Islands, Mr Pouyanne said Total was committed to the region, but stressed that operating costs need to fall to allow oil and gas companies to continue offshore exploration.

"We need to be sure that breakeven will be able to support highs and downs. And today we are in the downs," he said.

In February, a report by UK Oil & Gas estimated that investment in the North Sea would fall to around £1 billion in 2016, compared with the medium-term average of £8bn.

"The [oil] price is what it is," said Mr Pouyanne.

"The price is lower today... but we knew that when we invested there would be ups and downs. Our job now is to get the most out of these assets."

When the plant was approved five years ago, oil prices were around $1oo per barrel. But when it first produced gas earlier this year, prices were as low as $30 per barrel.

"We are still continuing to invest in additional discoveries that will be put on stream in 2017-2018 which will give additional revenues from this plant," Mr Pouyanne added.

Despite growing signs that oil prices are starting to rise again - Brent crude oil neared $50 per barrel for the first time since November 2015 today (Tuesday) - the Total boss said prices and the industry would remain volatile for the forseeable future.

"The price of oil is never stable," he said.

"We made a mistake in the industry when we were at $100 a barrel... we [thought] it is a sort of floor. Today people think there is a ceiling. There is no floor, no ceiling, it will move up and down."