North Sea oil production is expected to rise over the next few years before declining briskly, according to a report on the sector.
There remains substantial potential from the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS), with both oil and gas production expected to increase between now and 2015, the University of Aberdeen report has found.
The increase is expected to give way to longer-term decline in production over the next 30 years.
From 2014 to 2031 the number of new oil fields coming into production fails to match the numbers reaching the end of their economic lives, the study by Professor Alex Kemp found.
The UK Department of Energy and Climate Change estimates that around 20 billion barrels of oil equivalent could be extracted from the UKCS, Prof Kemp said.
"On current trends and performance, the ultimate potential will not be achieved over the next 30 years or even by 2050 when 17.5 billion (barrels of oil equivalent) could be produced," he said.
"But well before that time much of the infrastructure will have become uneconomic and its absence will make it much more difficult to ensure the economic development of the small fields which will dominate the population of undeveloped discoveries."
If the long-term economic recovery of the sector is to be maximised, there is a need to increase exploration efforts above recent levels, extend the life of infrastructure and reduce unplanned downtime for production facilities, Prof Kemp said.
Responding to the study findings, a Scottish Government spokesman said: "Scotland's oil and gas sector leads the world. With more than half of the value of the North Sea's oil and gas reserves yet to be extracted, up to 24 billion recoverable barrels with a potential wholesale value of £1.5 trillion, oil and gas will remain an enormous economic resource for decades to come.
"Scotland's oil and gas strategy, announced earlier this year and developed in conjunction with industry, lays out a plan to help the industry go from strength to strength."