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Lessons from oil and gas exploration in and around Britain

R. F. P. Hardman
R. F. P. Hardman
Amerada Hess International Ltd., 33 Grosvenor Place, London SW1X 7HY, UK Present address: The Long Barn, Treen, St Levan, Penzance, Cornwall TR19 6LG, UK, e-mail:
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January 01, 2003


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.

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Figures & Tables


Geological Society, London, Memoirs

United Kingdom Oil and Gas Fields Commemorative Millennium Volume

J. G. Gluyas
J. G. Gluyas
Acorn Oil Gas Ltd, Staines, Middlesex, UK
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H. M. Hichens
H. M. Hichens
Oil and Gas Directorate, London, UK
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Geological Society of London
ISBN electronic:
Publication date:
January 01, 2003




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