Spending by oil and gas companies operating in the U.K. North Sea fell to the lowest levels since 2004 last year as they concentrated on preserving cash during the pandemic, while production from the more than half a century-old basin has re-entered “longer-term” decline.

Oil and gas companies collectively spent £3.4 billion (US$4.7 billion) less last year than in 2019, a 23% drop, according to a report on March 16 by OGUK, a trade body. Companies deferred field developments and maintenance to cope with the fallout of the pandemic, which triggered a sharp slump in prices in the first half of 2020.

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