With the upcoming 50th birthday of crude oil approaching in September, Professor Iain Stewart MBE FGS has taken a look at how Earth became ‘Planet Oil’ in a 3-part documentary that began on 10th February. In the documentary, Professor Stewart explores the history of oil and his personal witnessing of its development through the years, including these key events:

• The Sea Gem drilling platform hitting natural gas in 1965
• The first oil fields Brent and Forties being found
• Margaret Thatcher’s pledge to build more oil and gas-fired power stations helping put an end to the UK miners’ strike of 1984–85 and many mines
• The UK becoming a net explorer and the economy booming

Professor Stewart’s personal experience shows that for some people the oil industry has been somewhat of a journey for them, and it would be hard to imagine a life without it. Our planet depends on oil and is addicted to it: we are ‘Planet Oil’.

Decline of Oil Fields

However we may one day face the possibility of life without oil as many oil fields are now in decline. We’ve passed the time where we could discover vast new reserves like the North Sea – we now only have oil that is more expensive to extract from existing reserves, and also more difficult because wells age and this causes them to fill with water rather than oil. Luckily, there is new technology that can extend the life of conventional wells, and also “unconventional” alternative fuels like shale gas and oil now being extracted. It appears that we can expect the ‘Planet Oil’ era to extend well into the 21st Century. However this does present a dilemma: if we are to avert the effects of climate change, then the remaining oil and gas reserves will have to not be used.

Hope for Planet Oil

An important tool in our carbon emissions reduction strategy is Carbon Capture Storage. This would allow carbon dioxide emissions from the UK’s power stations to be captured, and existing pipes in the North Sea would be utilised to transport the emissions to decommissioned and re-configured platforms, where the waste emissions would be pumped down into the empty reservoirs. The eventual plan is for Carbon Capture Storage to be rolled out across the world.

This gives hope for Planet Oil, and if the plan materialises it would create jobs in the oil and gas industry at a time when there is call for North Sea oil companies to review their strategy in the face of falling oil prices and rising costs.

At ICS we’ve been working with oil and gas contractors since 2002 and have witnessed the challenges they have overcome and those they are currently facing. Are you a contractor working in the North Sea, we’d really like to hear how it is affecting you and what you think needs to be done. Leave a comment below or head over to our LinkedIn group and share your thoughts.

ICS have helped many contractors in the oil and gas industry by offering a variety of accountancy and administration services through our Limited Company service and our umbrella employment solution. For more information please chat to us online or call us on 0800 195 3750.