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The story of North Sea Oil

In the 1970s, the question of what Britain would do in an energy crisis was highly pertinent. Coal, for power stations and to heat our homes in general, was still the most used commodity in terms of energy use. With continuing industrial strife with miners and power workers, it seemed that successive governments would be held to ransom by the Unions. To make matters worse, the flow of Oil from the Middle East was being choked off by OPEC, and the oilfields of Texas were running dry. Salvation came, or seemed to come, from the discovery of North Sea oil off the Atlantic Shelf. The existence of this fossil fuel had been known from 1851 onwards. However, the extraction of the oil in one of the world’s most dangerous and storm-ridden seas, plus the climate is very inclement, meant that getting it out of the sea bed was far too costly. With the ongoing energy crisis, the UK and Norwegian Governments decided to take the plunge and start to create oil rigs to get the vital commodity out of the sea and onto land.

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The main issue that the Petroleum companies faced was how to do that. Large ships would be unusable as the choppiness of the waters, plus the chance of quick storms suddenly coming into play, meant there was no way they could simply sail out to the shelf and start. Instead, it would require a more permanent structure. It would mean that the rig would have to go out to sea. Once the drilling was done and the oil reservoir breached, it could be tapped off via pipe to storage on the mainland. The beauty of this system was that a rig could be towed onto a new spot if needed.

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One of the main issues with the use of oil rigs is rust. Combined with strong winds, seawater provides the perfect conditions for such a debilitating effect. It’s why companies like offer services like Electroless Nickel Coating. Nickel is one of the most rust-resistant metals, and whilst expensive, they protect some of the many delicate components that keep the rig running safely and efficiently.

The future remains uncertain for the fields. The yields have declined since 2007. So much so that the UK had to import some supply for the first time in 30 years.

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