While the Scottish independence debate rages this week around North Sea oil revenues, a report said ambitious reforms were necessary to maximise production regardless of whether Britain or Scotland rules the waves.
Britain has extracted around 42 billion barrels of oil so far from the North Sea, according to former oil industry boss Ian Wood, who wrote the report commissioned by the British government in June 2013.
A further 12 to 24 billion barrels could still be produced, but the final figure is "in a large part dependent on how well the UK manages the overall development of its remaining resources", the respected industry figure said.
The report makes a series of recommendations to boost production, including the creation of a powerful new "independent, stronger, more experienced" regulator.
"It must have the capacity to facilitate and influence greater collaboration between operators on exploration, field developments and infrastructure to provide more revenue for the UK and better returns for the licensee," the report said.
He said his recommendations represented a "real opportunity" to get the best out of the United Kingdom Continental Shelf (UKCS), and bring in more than £200 billion "additional value to the UK economy" over the next 20 years.
"There is a huge prize at stake, and I believe the government must implement the key recommendations, including the creation of a new regulator, as quickly as possible," he said.
- New discoveries small and expensive -
Without this, he warned, the sector could continue on its downward path.
Production on the UKCS fell by 38 percent between 2010 and 2013, costing the British Treasury £6 billion in tax revenue.
New discoveries tend to be smaller and more expensive to operate and ageing infrastructure needs updating, said Wood.
British Prime Minister David Cameron capitalised on the report's publication, staging a meeting of the cabinet in Aberdeen, Scotland's oil capital, to assert that the London government is better placed than Edinburgh to increase the profits from the North Sea.
Energy Secretary Ed Davey told BBC radio: "What we are showing today in the Wood Review is that Westminster will manage the oil and gas reserves that the UK has in a far more effective way and that's great for Scotland.
"Scotland would be very reliant on oil and gas revenue and, with the oil price being so volatile, with decline in North Sea revenues, I think that would expose the finances, the public spending of Scotland very seriously," he said.
London is hoping to show Scots that their interests are best served by remaining in the union, while benefiting from autonomy on issues such as health and education, which are governed by the devolved Scottish Parliament.
The British oil sector is the biggest industrial investor in the country, having put in £317 billion pounds ($528 billion, 383 billion euros) since North Sea oil production started four decades ago.
It accounted for 15 percent of corporation tax collected in 2012-2013 and employs 450,000 people directly and indirectly.