New deepwater oil drilling starts west of Shetland
Faroe Petroleum has confirmed that deepwater drilling has started in a new exploration area on the Atlantic margin west of Shetland.
The North Uist well is about 125km (78 miles) to the north west of the islands, at a depth of nearly 1,300m.
The drilling operation is being carried out by BP Exploration using the Stena Carron drilling rig.
Environmental groups have criticised the UK government for allowing exploration in the area.
Other partners in the North Uist operation are CIECO Exploration, Idemitsu Petroleum and Nexen Petroleum.
Faroe Petroleum chief executive Graham Stewart said: "We are very pleased to announce the spudding of this frontier exploration well in one of our core areas.
"The North Uist prospect offers significant resource potential and is in close proximity to a number of important discoveries on the Atlantic Margin Corona Ridge, including Rosebank and Cambo."
Deepwater drilling in the area west of Shetland has attracted strong criticism.
Environmentalists have claimed that the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico showed the dangers inherent in exploring such areas.
Dr Richard Dixon, director of WWF Scotland, said: "New deepwater drilling is just not worth the risk because we should be phasing out our use of oil instead of chasing ever more difficult sources.
"BP have already made it clear that a major spill from this well would be a disaster for fishing, tourism and wildlife, with oil washing up in the Northern Isles and as far away as Norway."