During the first four months of 2008, Venture Production plc has made strong operational progress. Group average production was in excess of 45,500 boepd, despite the impact of the recent shut-down of the Forties Pipeline System.
It has also been an active period of field development activity. During 2008 and 2009, Venture anticipates bringing a total of eight new projects on stream which are expected to boost net production significantly from today's levels.
Highlights from the first four months of the year include the second Chiswick production well, Chiswick Gamma, being successfully brought on stream in late February, the successful results of the Ensign appraisal well and the sanctioning of the Stamford and Grouse developments. The company continues to progress hook-up and commissioning activities on the Chestnut field which, as previously announced, is expected to deliver first oil during the third quarter. Venture is currently drilling the reservoir section in our southern North Sea Barbarossa appraisal well, having taken the decision to proceed with the planned sidetrack following positive results from the initial pilot hole.
High commodity prices for both oil and gas, combined with costs in line with expectations and solid operating performance, are continuing to drive strong financial performance. Venture's balance sheet remains strong and there has been no significant change to the financial position of the Company since the publication of the Report and Accounts in respect of the year ended December 31, 2007.
The start of 2008 has also been one of the busiest in terms of business development activities in Venture's history. This year we have already announced seven new transactions in which we have acquired interests in 10 discovered fields and 4 exploration prospects. These provide us with additional development, appraisal and exploration inventory which is expected to deliver material additional production from 2010 onwards. We continue to see further scope for consolidation in the North Sea and are actively pursuing these opportunities.
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