Norwegian energy giant Statoil is set to step into the UK sector of the North Sea following the green light it received from the British Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) for its Mariner heavy oil field project, the BBC reported.

The development of the North Sea oil field is the largest new offshore project in the UK in a decade. Statoil is reported to be investing around $7 billion in the Mariner heavy oil field, located about 150km (93 miles) east of the Shetland Isles. The deal was signed by Statoil's CEO Helge Lund and British energy minister Edward Davey in Oslo.

Statoil sees the North Sea as a key area for business and is looking forward to the leading role it is set to play in developing the British part of the sea, Lund said in a statement. Production is predicted to start in 2017 and is estimated to last for about 30 years. During the first three years of operation, the oil field is expected to be producing 55,000 barrels of oil per day. The project will create around 700 jobs in the Aberdeen area, including 200 onshore posts in Aberdeen.

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For the development of the field, the company will be using a production, drilling and quarters (PDQ) platform based on a steel jacket. As many as 50 active well slots will be present, as well as a floating storage unit (FSU) with a total capacity of 850,000 barrels. The first four to five years of the operation will also see a jack-up rig in use, Statoil explained.

The Mariner field was discovered in 1981 and is believed to hold nearly 2 billion barrels of oil in place. The expected recoverable reserves are more than 250 million barrels of 12 to 14 API crude, experts say. The field will be operated by Statoil, which holds 65.11 percent equity. Other partners include JX Nippon Exploration and Production (UK) Limited (28.89 percent) and Edinburgh-based Cairn Energy (6 percent).

Statoil resumed drilling after the UK government gave the company tax concessions in 2011. According to a company spokesperson, at the time Statoil preferred to "pause and reflect" about the future development of its Mariner and Bressay projects because of tax changes announced by Chancellor George Osborne. The projects were put on hold because the reforms in the British tax regime were a "substantial setback," the spokesperson said.

As the development of the Mariner heavy oil field will now continue, the UK energy minister commented that Mariner will be one of the biggest projects ever in the North Sea and it will be of great importance to the UK, as it will mark a new stage in developing heavy oil production.