Private equity-backed Azinor Catalyst is confident of beginning drilling next year on its first operated UK North Sea exploration well, with others likely to follow.

Managing director Nick Terrell told an industry audience the company has five central North Sea prospects “drill-ready” for 2017 and 2018.

“We do recognise the major challenges [facing the North Sea] but we also recognise the significant counter-cyclical opportunity here for capital to make a material return through the right kind of exploration in the North Sea,” said Terrell.