This week oil explorer Xcite Energy announced that the giant Bentley field 100 miles east of Shetland contains 250 million barrels of recoverable oil and gas, more than double the original estimate.
The announcement saw the company’s share price soar by almost 10 per cent, while wildlife charity WWF Scotland warned that such developments pose a long term threat to the planet.
The Bentley field, like the Clair field west of Shetland, was discovered in 1977 when the technology to extract its heavy crude did not exist.
Only recent tax breaks for the offshore industry, along with high oil prices and improved techniques are allowing companies like Xcite Energy to exploit the field, which is ten times the size of the average new discovery in the North Sea.
The company expects to begin producing oil in 2015 once it has found a financial partner.
It is part of a new growth in oil developments east and west of Shetland that will see the current decline in oil production reversed with two million barrels a day being produced by 2017.
The industry expects an extra 50,000 jobs to be created in the offshore industry over the next few years, boosting it to around 500,000 in the UK sector alone.
However environmentalists are warning that the race to extract every last drop of oil and gas from the North Sea will merely add to the current problems facing the planet as climate change triggers greater extremes of weather.
WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: “Generous tax-breaks that encourage companies to exploit oil once deemed commercially unviable, like the Bentley field, need to end.
"Scotland should really be setting out a plan to transition away from dirty fossil fuels.
“We need to see a transition that enables us to harness the engineering skills currently deployed in the oil and gas industry and apply them to supporting a range of cleaner forms of energy production.
"One thing we do know is that the planet certainly can't afford to allow all the oil left in the North Sea to be burned."