How the Industry Works

The Geological Setting

The occurrence of vast amounts of oil and gas beneath UK waters is the result of a remarkably fortunate set of circumstances involving the deposition and maturing of rich source rocks and the timely migration of oil and gas into porous reservoirs in structures beneath impermeable seals. These elements that resulted in offshore Britain becoming a major oil and gas province are discussed in this book.

Exploration and Development

The discovery and development of our offshore oil and gas is a triumph of painstaking detective work and bold construction initiatives undertaken in a difficult and dangerous environment. Their great economic importance provided the incentive to overcome the related difficulties and dangers has inspired enormous advances in the science and technology of offshore exploration and production.


The development of new technology and working practices has combined to bring more new fields into production and has given many existing fields a longer productive life. The province has matured, with production peaking in 1999, but there is still more to be found and extracted. There are two key challenges facing Britain’s offshore oil and gas industry: how to find ways of safely and economically increasing the recovery percentage of existing fields and continue to maintain a stream of new developments which, with a few notable exceptions, are smaller or more complex.


Although tens of billions of pounds are being spent exploring for and developing oil and gas reserves in the UK, over the next couple of decades we will see a growing number of redundant oil and gas installations taken out of service. Within the industry, this is referred to as decommissioned. A strict legal framework of national, regional and international regulations governs how disused offshore facilities are decommissioned and an increasing body of good practice is being gathered as decommissioning projects progress.

The operating environment

The commercial, legislative and regulatory environment in which companies work is continually changing. This book outlines the principles within which the industry operates regarding health, safety and the environment and considers the sector’s future prospects.