|BRITAIN'S OFFSHORE OIL & GAS
'North Sea Gas' was first discovered in the southern North Sea in 1965 and brought ashore in 1967. The giant Forties Field was discovered in 1970 and the first oil (from the Argyll Field) came ashore in 1975. All the largest and most easily developed oil fields have been discovered and are now past their production peak. Oil production generally has peaked and is now declining gradually, though gas production is still rising. Both will last well into the current century. Further exploration will continue, searching in particular for 'subtle' traps. High oil prices encourage further investment in new technology which can be of assistance in exploration, appraisal, development and production. Even very mature developments can be given a new lease of life through enhanced recovery techniques such as injection steam, surfactant chemicals, miscible gases and polymers to lower the viscosity of the oil. However, the oil price is notoriously volatile, and long-term plans by companies must take account of that fact by making sure planned projects are economically robust at a relatively low oil price level. There will be increasing development of small satellite fields linked by subsea tiebacks to an existing central platform. Estimating future production is a hazardous task. Every long term forecast to date has been wrong (and all in a pessimistic direction).
Britain's offshore oil and gas industry has developed to the point where an increasing number of installations will be decommissioned because they have come to the end of their economic lives. The industry remains committed to doing all that is reasonable practicable to reduce the safety risk and risk of damage to the environment when decommissioning such installations, the majority of which will be removed entirely. To this end it is developing efficient decommissioning plans for those installations, which are based upon achieving the right balance between safety, protection of the environment and cost. A number of relatively small installations have been successfully decommissioned already. At the same time, the industry is making strenuous efforts to sustain its huge contribution to Britain's economy and jobs as it moves into the 21st century.