N. Sea ‘small’ pools provide major new oil production and expert exports potential, industry chief tells MSPs

Colette Cohen
Colette Cohen

Developing more than 200 ‘small’ pools of oil in the ageing North Sea basin offers a potential double-bonus for Scotland’s economy.

This was a key message yesterday to MSPs on the Scottish parliament’s cross party group on oil and gas from Colette Cohen, Chief Executive of the newly-opened £180 million Oil and Gas Technology Centre in Aberdeen.

First, she explained that ‘small pools’ is a relative term for untapped oilfields which can include substantial reserves that have not (yet) been taken forward into oil production, either for historic lack of technology to reach them, and/or because hitherto it has not been economically feasible to do so.

Secondly, Cohen said the OGTC is focussing on tapping some 200 ‘small pools’ in the N. Sea by a combination of driving down costs and sharing historic data and know-how in combination with new advances in robotics and information technology.

She added: “And thirdly, we aim to anchor the oil and gas supply chain in Grampian to help export Scottish supply-chain know-how round the world.

“Globally, there are more than 600 ‘small pools’ in other established oil basins and – if we can crack our own small pools in the North Sea – this represents a major potential exports markets for our know-how.”

The OGTC is also working on two other key strategic outcomes – to share best-practice knowledge and know-how to drive down average decommissioning costs of £1 billion-per-platform while exploiting new advances in remote-working technology.

And Cohen urged the oil and gas industry to ‘get a move on’ with decommissioning. She said:

“Decommissioning is happening now – we can’t just sit around waiting for someone to fire the starting pistol.

“The industry spent £1 billion on decommissioning in 2015 and twice that in 2016. But there are more than 40 plug-and-abandon wells – with an approximate commercial market value of £40 billion – coming on stream from now onwards.

“By working with the operators, we aim to reduce costs by at least 50%. We won’t solve all of the challenges facing us in the N. Sea – but if we can solve some of them, we’ll be taking big steps towards maximising economic recovery and extend the working life of the basin.”

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