Fewer deals are being struck in the offshore industry compared with last year, according to a report.
Ten deals were reported in the first three months of this year, down from 19 during the same period in 2013, business advisory firm Deloitte said.
It suggested drilling and deal activity will remain at a "steady low" for at least the next year.
Twelve exploration and appraisal wells were conducted in the first quarter on the UK continental shelf, one fewer than the same time last year.
Graham Sadler, managing director of Deloitte's petroleum services group, said the drop in deals could be due to a gap in price expectations between vendors and buyers.
"It is very likely that what we're seeing is a result of the continuing higher operating costs and the ongoing challenges of a mature region," he said.
"These could be having a knock-on effect on deal flow since sellers might be seeking a higher price than buyers may be willing to pay."
Tax changes confirmed in the UK budget could lead to additional costs for North Sea operators, Deloitte said.