Centrica already owns some upstream assets in the Morecambe Bay and East Irish Sea areas off the west coast of the UK, but it is increasingly looking to tap into the North Sea too – despite widespread acknowledgment that production from these fields is in terminal decline.

Nevertheless Centrica remains short on gas assets to use as a hedge for its retail business, and the firm has seen thousands of UK residential customers switch away in the face of a series of tariff increases.

Incoming CEO Sam Laidlaw is thought to favor upstream expansion as a means of easing its predicament, and he has an appropriate background having previously worked for Chevron in his native US.