'I am very pleased to report that the benefits of scale and diversification that delivered a step change in production levels and record financial performance in 2005 have continued into 2006. Last year we brought three new oil and gas fields on stream and successfully completed a further nine 'in-field' projects investing over £200 million in our North Sea business. A similar level of investment-led activity has been sustained and we look forward to reporting another significant increase in production, cashflow and earnings during 2006.
Operationally, 2006 has got off to an excellent start. In the southern North Sea strong production performance from our 'A' Fields gas production hub has continued. During April, we brought on-stream the newly drilled Ann in-fill well and the third production well in the Saturn development came on-stream in early June at production rates in line with expectations. During May we received DTI approval for the development of the Mimas field which is being developed as a satellite to Saturn and is expected to come on stream in late 2006. Venture's operated drilling program in the southern North Sea will re-commence in September. This is slightly later than originally planned due to the timing of rig arrival from another operator but will have no impact on forecast production levels for gas in 2006 or 2007. We plan to drill the Ensign appraisal well as the rig's first operation.
On our GKA hub, we have a very active development program during 2006. We have drilled and tied-in the water injection well on the Gadwall field and oil production from the field is expected to resume around mid-year. Strong production from Mallard has continued since production was re-instated in April and we plan to drill an additional water injection well into the northern part of the field during the third quarter. Development of the Goosander field continues and remains on track for first oil in the third quarter. The Goosander production well has now been drilled, tested and completed and offshore installation of the sub-sea flowline bundles is currently underway.
Elsewhere in the central North Sea, development of the Chestnut field continues and remains on track for first oil in the third quarter of 2007. We are currently drilling the water injection well in the field and the floating production unit is under construction in China. During 2006 we have acquired an additional interest in the Pilot field, taking our interest to 70%, ahead of drilling an appraisal well later in the year.
Total Group production for the first five months of 2006 averaged approximately 44,500 boepd, more than double the level for the corresponding period in 2005 and in-line with our quarter-by-quarter expectations. Our average production guidance for the year remains 40-42,000 boepd, representing a 34-40% increase over 2005. However, as always, achievement of this target remains subject to operational, project and timing issues some of which are beyond our control.'
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