By Martin Kelly
An ex-oil tycoon who recently accused the Scottish Government of exaggerating North Sea oil estimates is today facing questions after a BBC video was unearthed which showed him backing the same figures.
In the interview, shown by the BBC in 2012, Sir Ian Wood explains how it is still possible to extract a further 25 billion barrels of oil from the North Sea.
Speaking to BBC Scotland reporter Douglas Fraser he says: “If you look ahead we could still produce another 25 billion barrels.
“And at one hundred dollars a barrel, that’s 2,500 billion dollars.”
He added: “The figures are staggering.”
Sir Ian said the “key factor” in maximising recovery lay with the UK Government which had to encourage investment.
The video, which was uncovered by pro-independence business group Business for Scotland, is hugely embarrassing for Sir Ian who earlier this month accused those who were suggesting 24 billion barrels of possible oil reserves of ‘distorting’ the true figures.
In an interview with Energy Voice, the ex-tycoon stepped into the independence debate and said he was against independence.
Speaking almost two weeks ago, Sir Ian claimed he decided to speak out because he was growing increasingly frustrated by the “wildly inaccurate misquoting” of a report he himself had compiled into the amount of oil left.
Sir Ian said: “Even with a more sympathetic tax and regulation framework, the likely best outcome, without new hydrocarbon regions being discovered, is between 15 billion and 16.5 billion barrels.
“The Scottish Government central prediction of what’s still to come is between 45 per cent and 60 per cent too high.”
However, with the video showing Sir Ian himself using a figure of 25 billion, many will now question whether his intervention weeks before the independence referendum was politically motivated.
The BBC video will also call into question the BBC’s coverage of Sir Ian’s attack on the Scottish Government, which the broadcaster headlined across its news platforms for several days.
Counter claims from industry figures and academics – including Sir Donald Mackay and Professor Alex Kemp – were not reported on BBC TV and Radio news bulletins.
Speaking to the Sunday Herald last week, industry body Oil and Gas UK said: “we remain of the view that there could be up to 24bn barrels of oil and gas to recover.”
Professor Kemp said: “With further technological progress and oil prices higher than current levels it can reasonably be expected that many of these fields will become viable before 2050.
“This should also apply to new discoveries from future exploration. Thus the ultimate potential of 24 billion barrels of oil equivalent foreseen by Oil and Gas UK appears plausible.”
Commenting, Kenny Anderson who is the Business for Scotland leader in Aberdeen, backed the figure of 24 billion barrels remaining.
He said: “Our sources for these estimates have included Oil and Gas UK, Professor Alex Kemp, Sir Donald Mackay and many other leading forecasters and now it seems Sir Ian Wood himself once predicted the higher figure of 25bn barrels left to produce.
“One thing is clear, all of the forecasts of the real experts – including Sir Ian’s pessimistic one – are far, far higher than the ones published by the Westminster Government and claimed by Better Together.”
The issue has re-entered the referendum debate following rumours of massive oil reserves uncovered to the west of Shetland. According to oil Giant BP, the company are currently planning further work on the Greater Clair sector of the North Sea.
The company has described its Clair Ridge oil field as “massive” and plans to increase oil recovery using a new extraction technique.
The field is being managed by AMEC on behalf of BP. In a promotional video released in May this year, George Mantzouridis a chief engineer with AMEC described the Clair project as “one of the biggest being built in the last thirty years in the North Sea”.
Mantzouridis also revealed that during the sanctioning of the project, UK Prime Minister David Cameron said the project was “a massive boost to jobs and growth in the UK.”