Extent of oil reserves off Scotland’s west coast set to be examined


  By Martin Kelly
Massive oil reserves off of the west coast of Scotland are to be examined after the Scottish Government announced it is to set up a review along with top academics and experts.
The area which includes the north and west coast of Shetland down to through the Hebrides and into the Firth of Clyde will be the subject of a review in order to determine the true scale of the oil and gas reserves.

According to the Sunday Post, the Scottish Government will, this Autumn, co-host a workshop with Heriot-Watt University’s Institute of Petroleum Engineering to examine the potential for conventional oil and gas resources in the waters off the west coast.

The announcement follows increasing speculation that a massive field to the west of Shetland has been discovered.

The field, located in the Greater Clair area around the islands, has already witnessed a huge investment from BP with the company set to employ advanced techniques in order to maximise production output.  A promotional video for the Clair field has explained how the company plans a “major transformation” to the field which BP itself describes as a “truly giant field”.

The company estimates that the field will begin production in 2016, and be able to produce over 100,000 barrels of oil per day.

Commenting last month, BP chief executive Bob Dudley said: “We remain very enthusiastic about Clair Ridge – appraisal wells are looking good. It is helping us to define the structure out there.

“[Clair Ridge] will be a project once we get it on in the next few years that has the potential to produce until 2050.”

Rumours that a massive new oil boom might be imminent grew when UK Prime Minister David Cameron made an unannounced visit to Shetland three weeks ago. 

Islanders were surprised when the PM stepped off of a plane on one of the islands airfields. 

The 1600 mile round trip from London had been kept secret from journalists.  Downing Street refused to be drawn on why the visit had not been publicised beforehand.

Speculation that there is massive oil reserves around Shetland follow revelations that there may be huge untapped reserves under the Firth of Clyde.

It recently emerged that surveys carried out in the seventies found evidence of significant reserves of oil, but further drilling was blocked by the Ministry of Defence because the waters were crucial to the movement of nuclear submarines.

There are also claims that fields to the West of Lewis are not being developed due to objections from the MoD as the area is used for war games involving nuclear subs as well as for the test firing of missiles from the Uist range.

At a recent energy meeting in Stornaway, local people spoke of exploratory work conducted over several decades to the West of the Western Isles.  Those who had been involved in the surveys were reporting back locally the there was a massive oil field there which “comes right up to the shore”.

Speaking to the Sunday Post, John Howell, Professor of Petroleum Geology at the University of Aberdeen, said: “The offshore area to the west of Scotland includes several major basins with hydrocarbon potential.

“While over 3,000 exploration wells have been drilled in the North Sea and West of Shetland, only around 20 have been drilled to the west of the Scottish mainland.

“This provides significant future potential which can only be appraised with detailed scientific study.”

Energy minister Fergus Ewing said: “Stimulating oil and gas activity to the west of Scotland could create employment and further increase the longevity of the industry in the country.

“Any activity will be supported by Scotland’s world-class indigenous supply chain with 40 years of experience in the North Sea.”


[Newsnet comment: The issue of North Sea Oil has been at the centre of the independence debate for decades.  In 2005 a secret report emerged that revealed successive Westminster Government’s had withheld the true value of North Sea oil from the Scottish people.

In 1974 the UK Government commissioned a report into the potential of North Sea Oil and how it might influence support for Scottish independence.  The report made clear that an independent Scotland would be far richer than if it remained within the Union.

The report’s conclusions were so dangerous that it was designated secret and hidden for thirty years before a Freedom of Information request forced the UK Government to reveal its contents.

Newsnet Scotland copied the entire report, together with an introductory letter written in 1975 by its author Gavin McCrone, and published it – it can be read here.

Publication of the McCrone report by Newsnet Scotland followed an admission by former Labour Chancellor Denis Healey that the Labour Government of the 1970s deliberately hid the true value of Scottish oil in order to thwart support for the SNP. 

Newsnet Scotland published a short video – narrated by actor David Hayman – which summarised the report’s conclusions.  It is reproduced below.]