Lessons from oil and gas exploration in and around Britain
After 35 years, exploration in and around Britain has reached a mature stage. Pure oil and gas exploration has with certain exceptions given way to the search for small fields close to infrastructure and maximizing recovery from existing fields. To examine the lessons of 35 years of exploration before many of the major players leave the stage is opportune. Lessons learned can be applied elsewhere.
An examination of the history suggests that lessons can be grouped under four headings: organization, technical skills, personal qualities and tactics. Successful companies optimize all of these. Unsuccessful companies, on the other hand, often fail because of a particular flaw in one of them.
It is concluded that successful exploration companies would field a team captained by a technically competent open-minded manager closely linked to skilled geoscientists, all of whom would have a deep understanding (through relatively long service) of the area being explored. Both managers and geoscientists would be able to take sensible risks and would not confuse the primary concern of the technical merits of a prospect with the secondary concern of the economics of success. Finally, luck appears to play an important part but there is no doubt that successful companies work hard for their luck.
Other lessons centre on the quirkiness of individual behaviour. This is something that no amount of study can eliminate.
Figures & Tables
Memoir 20 is the most comprehensive reference work on the UK’s oil and gas fields available. It updates and substantially extends Memoir 14 (1991), United Kingdom 0il and Gas Fields, one of the Geological Society’s best-selling books. This new edition contains updates on many of the ageing giant fields, as well as entries for fields either undiscovered or undeveloped when Memoir 14 was published.
The book is divided into nine parts covering the major petroleum provinces both offshore and onshore United Kingdom, from the Gas Basin in the southern North Sea to the Viking Graben in the northern North Sea, from the Atlantic Frontier to the Irish Sea and from the Wessex Basin to the East Midlands. Each part contains a reference map showing field locations. The introductory chapters reveal the stories behind the major plays and discoveries therein, and their tectonic and stratigraphic framework. There are two appendices: tabulated field data and a comprehensive list for all of the UK's 300+ oil and gas fields.