* While Britain's North Sea drilling falls, Norway's jump
* Deloitte calls drop a "pause", sees recovery in Q4
LONDON Oct 22 The number of wells drilled in
the British North Sea fell by more than a third in the third
quarter, potentially raising further concerns about the region's
outlook after a downgrade to production forecasts earlier this
During the three months to Sept. 31, the summer period which
is traditionally Britain's busiest for drilling, 11 exploration
and appraisal wells were started, 35 percent lower than the same
period last year, a survey by Deloitte Petroleum services said
The number of wells drilled in the third quarter was also 31
percent lower than in the second quarter of 2013.
Britain's oil and gas production from the North Sea has
fallen by about two thirds since 2000 and posted particularly
steep falls of 14.5 percent last year and 18 percent in 2011.
A pick-up in output was originally forecast for next year
but this was in August pushed back to 2015 as fields required
Drops in oil and gas output have held back Britain's economy
in recent years, hitting attempts to stimulate growth, which is
expected to be a major issue in the 2015 general election.
Drilling for new fields and to help understand
already-discovered accumulations is important to help underpin
the North Sea's future production prospects.
Norway's North Sea by contrast experienced an 89 percent
jump in drilling in the third quarter compared to the same
period in 2012, with eight more exploration and appraisal wells
Deloitte described the drop in the drilling rate in Britain
as a "pause" and said it was hard to draw conclusions from only
one three-month period.
"We need to wait and see whether this is a trend that we
ought to be concerned about or not," said Deloitte's Georgina
Kladis, one of the authors of the report, adding she was hopeful
of a recovery in drilling in the fourth quarter.
Kladis cited a lack of rig availability and financing
constraints on some smaller companies as potential reasons for
the lower drilling during the summer.
Exploration off Britain has in recent years fallen behind
that of Norway, a development which industry figures have
attributed to Norway's more favourable fiscal regime where tax
breaks are available for exploration.
(Reporting by Sarah Young; editing by James Jukwey)