Doubts cast over Sir Ian Wood oil claims as industry backs Scottish Govt figure

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  By Martin Kelly
 
Doubts over the accuracy of figures on remaining North Sea oil reserves claimed by Sir Ian Wood have emerged after representatives of the industry publicly backed the 24 billion barrel figure used by the Scottish Government.
 
Speaking to the Sunday Herald, 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.”

The statement undermines claims made by Sir Ian Wood this week that the 24bn barrel figure is a “distortion”.  According to Wood, the amount of oil left to recover will not exceed 16.5bn barrels.

Wood, who came out in support of a No vote last week, has attacked the Scottish Government accusing it of exaggerating by sixty per cent the amount of oil remaining in the North Sea.  The Scottish Government has used the industry figure of 24bn in its calculations.

However Sir Ian’s own estimates have been challenged by leading oil and gas expert Professor Alex Kemp after the University of Aberdeen academic said oil recovery could go on beyond Wood’s limit of 2050 and that 24bn was a plausible estimate.

In a further blow to his own credibility, Wood himself has now admitted his own figure of 16.5bn could be too low.
 
Speaking to the Sunday Herald, the retired head of the Wood Group has now said that there could in fact be as much as 18 billion barrels still to be recovered.

He told the paper: “If you said to me is 18 [billion] possible, I would say probably just.”

The intervention last week by the ex-tycoon into the referendum debate follows 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.”

Oil has moved centre stage in the independence referendum after rumours of a massive new find grew on the back of an unannounced visit to Shetland by David Cameron.  The 1600 mile round trip from London was not announced and journalists only learned of the trip when the Prime Minister stepped off of a plane.

The BBC has also come under fire on social media for its decision to promote anti-independence claims on oil.  The broadcaster has favoured statements attacking the Scottish Government, with massive coverage of Sir Ian Wood’s claims followed by the headlining of claims from a former head of pro-Union lobbying group CBI Scotland.

Despite the Sunday Herald report having been in the public domain for several hours, BBC Scotland has yet to report on the statement from Oil and Gas UK.  On the BBC Scotland main news page, a story about Dr Who has been deemed the third most important.  Last week an item on Strictly Come Dancing was given a higher priority than a report challenging UK Government claims over oil.