The oil industry in the United Kingdom is relatively recent. It was not until during the 1960s that concerted efforts were made to find out if there were any substantial oil deposits in the North Sea. The North Sea itself is relatively shallow which made it less challenging to do the surveys. You might ask where the oil came from and how it came to be there when most oilfields are found in warmer climes. But if you consider the history of the planet, the continental plates have been moving around for millions of years and the oil found in Arabia for instance, was laid down more recently than that in higher latitudes such as the North Sea. The oil is found among sedimentary rocks and this would substantiate the assumption that oil is 'made' from the layering of organic sediments which then undergo geological changes over millions of years to become oil.
During the 1960s the British government drafted the Continental Shelf Act which allowed the issue of licences permitting oil companies to search the North Sea for oil. The North Sea is divided into sectors and the licenses allow oil companies to search the relevant sector to which their license applies. BP's Sea Gem rig found natural gas in September 1965 which caused great excitement. However, disaster struck when the Sea Gem sank with loss of 13 lives when it was being moved from the gas field. It was not until December 1969 when Amoco struck oil in the Montrose field which is located 135 miles to the east of the city of Aberdeen. More licenses were awarded and during the month of October in 1970, BP discovered the substantial Forties oil field. During 1971, Shell Expro found the enormous Brent oil field to the east of the Shetland Islands. Further oil discoveries were made during the early 70's and the oil boom was in full flow turning the fortunes of the country which had been languishing behind its European neighbours in economic terms.
It has not all been plain sailing and the weather conditions in the North Sea can be utterly horrendous. The result of which can mean shutting down production until the bad weather has passed. Numerous lives have been lost over the years with one of the significant disasters being that of the Piper Alpha rig owned by Occidental. On the 6th of July in 1988 there was a large explosion and then a massive fire which destroyed the rig and cost the lives of one hundred and sixty nine men. This event was one of the most shocking in the industry and the resulting Cullen enquiry found that safety during maintenance procedures were lacking and as such over 100 recommendations were made. These recommendations were accepted by the oil industry in the North Sea and have made working on rigs much safer.
As the early oil fields are beginning to dry up, the search continues for new sources of oil. There are believed to be substantial deposits of oil around the Shetland Isles and also off the west coast of the Outer Hebrides. The future of the North Sea oil industry is still looking buoyant with a £1 billion project having been approved in 2012 by the government. It is hoped that advancements in technology will allow the remains of currently irretrievable oil to be extracted from existing wells.
Graham Baylis writes articles for Exol Lubricants with the aim of entertaining and informing their customers about the subject of lubrication oils and fluids. If you are interested in this area, their blog is also a resouorce that you should not miss out on. See http://www.exol-lubricants.com for more info.
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