In an interesting and well researched article in the Scottish newspaper ‘The National’, the prospect of oil in the Atlantic frontier basins has raised its head once again.
But is drilling to the west of the United Kingdom wise? Well… that depends.
There’s more to the positioning of the North Sea oil industry than meets the eye, much more. For example, have you ever wondered just exactly why all the old oil seems to be so far out to sea when the newer fields such as the Buzzard, Golden Eagle, and Culzean are relatively closer to land?
If you look closely at the albeit dated map of north sea oil fields shown above, it would appear as if all the oil ran exactly down the international demarcation lines that separate the Norwegian, the British, and the Danish sectors. That assumption though, is most definitely flawed.
What actually happened at the dawn of the North Sea oil rush was that each country deliberately went right out to their boundary lines for a number of calculated reasons.
Out of sight, out of mind, on many fronts, was the mantra. Oil rigs and platforms are dirty beasts, and that cannot be denied. If you’ve ever flown out to one on a chopper, the oil sheen spreading out from the platform bases are apparent, regardless of how much the platforms say they have had zero hydrocarbon releases in however many days. Further to that ‘out of sight’ mantra, the plumes of burnt hydrocarbons rising from the colossal flare booms cannot be seen by the general populace, and have two or three hundred miles to dissipate in the prevailing south-westerly winds that dominate the UK before they are noticed in Norway or Denmark. With the rigs so far over the horizon, the perception is that they’re not there at all.
And finally, those pesky Scottish Nationalists and those peskier environmentalists would have little to celebrate or complain about if they were perpetually told the oil was on the cusp of disappearing with no prospect of ‘new oil’.
Norway and Denmark both did the same, minus the worry over nationalism, as they explored their designated basins; pushing out to the boundaries and working their way back towards land.
But back to the headline subject… would it be wise to drill extensively in the Atlantic frontier to the west of Scotland?
The fact of the matter is that there is without a doubt extensive reserves of oil and gas out there, but it couldn’t possibly be played out in the same manner as the North Sea was. The waters are deeper – much deeper in some instances – and the infrastructure is non-existent. Going to the extremities of international demarcation lines and working back the way isn’t an option, if only for the fact that choppers can’t safely fly that far whilst retaining multiple options for returning to land should fog descend or disaster strike.
Therefore, the only option is to start inland – in and around the estuaries – and work outwards.
I can’t imagine the residents of the remote and ancient island communities would be overly up for that prospect; billows of smoke misting through their untainted villages and towns.
But then again… it’ll come. It’ll come when national need dictates it. No doubt.
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