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Scottish West Coast Untapped Oil and Gas Reserves Worth Billions

Published in Oil Industry News on Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Scotland could be sitting on more than double the amount of oil and gas reserves currently predicted, a new independent industry investigation has found. The investigation reveals that the scale of Scotland’s untapped frontier West Coast or Atlantic Margin has been underestimated.

The investigation was undertaken by oilandgaspeople.com, the world’s largest oil and gas industry jobs board, and independent North Sea oil and gas industry experts. The investigation included interviews with industry experts and collated seismic and expert evidence from a range of independent sources such as the British Geological Survey, DECC, oil and gas companies, the Institute of Petroleum Engineering and the  Energy Institute.

The findings show that the current predictions of extensive untapped reserves of oil and gas could be underestimated by 100%. The West Coast alone could provide oil and gas for over 100 years with an estimated value of more than £1 trillion.

Yet the area – off the west coast of Scotland and Outer Hebrides and Shetland –has remained largely untapped due to deep waters and difficult geological conditions.

This is despite strong geological evidence for oil and gas reserves, including that the major basins in the area are filled with thick sedimentary successions – which helps produce and then reservoir oil and gas. These geological conditions support the formation of gigantic, or ‘supermassive’ oil reserves.

But the investigation found that oil exploration, discoveries and production in the area are set to dramatically increase over the next ten years as continual improvements in drilling technology, rig design and seismic surveying makes the area more accessible. As a result, the investigation found that the most recent round of DECC licensing for exploration has seen an increase in oil majors, such as BP, Chevron, Statoil, Total, and Shell, begin prospecting.

The investigation also found over the next 10 years upwards of one million barrels a day could be pumped from the Atlantic Margins if more than £1.5 billion is invested to extract it.

The investigation revealed a consensus among industry experts and companies that it’s not a case of if, but when oil and gas reserves larger than in the North Sea will be discovered in the Atlantic Margin. The only barrier was the current lack of test drilling and technology. Many cited the case of BP’s Clair Ridge as an example of how technical difficulties once overcome can lead to new oil reserves. BP employed advanced recovery techniques to access fields in the Clair Ridge that were previously inaccessible due to geographical issues such as deep water.  In the 1970s, drilling companies believed such fields were out of reach, but now that new technology has opened these fields up, the Clair Ridge alone will produce 120,000 barrels per day at peak levels of production. This translates to an estimated eight billion barrels of oil worth approximately £300 billion.

Analysis from DECC further backs up the reports finding. Its recent Strategic Environmental Assessment identified the following areas as priority for further exploration: Rockall Basin, Outer Hebrides Platform and parts of the Hatton Basin and Hatton High.

The investigation also found that oil companies had evidence that there was significant potential for large oil finds in the Faroe-Shetland Basin. Geological evidence found that it contains more large undrilled structural traps that the North Sea.

The investigation also found that the industry had evidence of a large and significant oil field off the West coast of Lewis that could dwarf many of the larger finds around the world. Surveys have already proven that thick Permo-Triassic sandstones exist in the area, a key indicator that oil is present in large quantities.

The investigation also found that oil companies over the next few years are planning to accelerate significantly the number of test drilling wells in the Atlantic Margin. Currently only 20 test wells have been drilled, which compares with more than 3000 that have been drilled in the North Sea.

Professor Dorrik Stow, head of the Institute of Petroleum Engineering, Heriot Watt University, quoted in the report, said: “The major basins are filled with thick sedimentary successions – this helps produce and then reservoir the oil and gas. West of Scotland, the sedimentary basins are much closer to those of the North Sea and are a fantastic location for oil and gas.”

Kevin Forbes, CEO of Oilandgaspeople.com, said: “The report provides independent evidence that the frontier Atlantic Margins off the West Coast of Scotland are likely to hold large oil and gas fields that could well be the same size if not bigger than the reserves in the North Sea,” he said.

He added: “Previously inaccessible fields are becoming more and more accessible with improved technology, advanced recovery techniques and the desire of oil majors to invest billions of pounds across Scotland.  Exploration in the West Coast is only just beginning and it is very possible that we have underestimated the true potential reserves of oil and gas in Scotland.  This is a very exciting time for our industry with the North Sea experiencing a second boom and West Coast of Scotland very much in its infancy.”

The British Geology Survey specialist, Howard Johnson, team leader on Continental Margins, stated that: “There is no doubt that there are considerable reserves of oil and gas in the British North Atlantic sector, an extensive Palaeogene Igneous Province is well documented on the conjugate continental margins of NW Europe…..including the British North Atlantic sector. That there is a working petroleum system in at least parts of the UK Atlantic Frontier areas can be demonstrated by finds such as the Benbecula gas discovery in the NE Rockall Basin.”


Oil and Gas Exploration, Scotland Oil, West Coast Oil and Gas

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