Scotland and the adjacent continental shelf have proved to be exceptionally rich in oil and gas thanks to the presence of two source rocks. Onshore, the Carboniferous oil shales around Edinburgh were the basis of a thriving shale oil industry in the latter part of the 19th century. Offshore, the Upper Jurassic Kimmeridge Clay Formation is the source of most of the oil in the North Sea fields, discovered and produced in the latter part of the 20th century. The development of these natural resources has proved to be hugely challenging scientifically, technologically and commercially.
The economic return to Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom has been immense; since 1965 the oil industry has generated an operating surplus of £250 billion (DTI 2000). Hydrocarbons from the UK Continental Shelf as a whole contributed £4 billion to the UK’s gross domestic product in 1999, equivalent to 1.8% of the total. However, in addition to this most obvious and important impact, the production of oil and gas from the ‘geology of Scotland’ has left its mark in other ways. There have been changes in the science of geology as practised in Scotland, and on the history and landscape. In West Lothian the working of oil shale during the late 19th and early 20th century produced the distinctive waste heaps known as bings (see Chapter 20, Fig. 20.1). More recently oil development has brought economic benefits to the northeast of Scotland and the Shetland Islands.
This account of