I HAVE never read such a ridiculous, disinformation statement on Scottish oil reserves in my entire professional career (Oil and gas reserves could sustain up to 20 years of production, The National, November 1). The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) states that petroleum and oil reserves in the UK and UKCS could sustain production for the next 20 years — and beyond (no clarification on “beyond”) — and with 10 to 20 billion barrels of remaining discovered and undiscovered potential, much of which is mature developed areas. Again, the OGA appears to be concentrating on the Scottish North Sea. I take issue with the 20-year lifespan time horizon for Scottish oil and gas, and with the oil and gas reserve figures.

So far, it has taken around 50 years to extract half of the oil and gas in the Scottish North Sea. If half of the oil and gas remains to be extracted in the Scottish North Sea, we could be looking at another 40 or 50 years of production. The Scottish Atlantic Margin (SAM) appears to have been excluded from the OGA projections for some obscure reason. There appears to be an almost demented obsession with the Scottish North Sea. If we add the Clair and Lancaster fields (to name but two) in the SAM, they have an estimated lifespan of 50 or 60 years.

You should know by now the form with oil field lifespan projection. Project 50 years for an oil field lifespan, at the end of which it magically extends for another 30 years, and so on, and so on. The remainder of the vast SAM has still to be developed, including the Firth of Clyde etc (only the northern SAM is currently gushing oil, and that is only a tiny part of the SAM). The 20-year timeline and reserves estimate for Scottish oil and gas are way too low. The timeline for Scottish oil and gas could well be beyond 100 years. The SAM cannot and should not be omitted from Scottish oil and gas projections of basin(s) lifespan, and total Scottish oil reserves.

Here is a simple calculation of Scottish oil and gas reserves that anyone can understand. In 50 plus years half of the oil has been extracted from the Scottish North Sea, with half the reserves remaining likely to last for another 50 odd years. That’s around 100 years of oil in total in the Scottish North Sea basin. According to a French geologist, the SAM is likely to contain approx three to four times the amount of oil as the Scottish North Sea, before extraction began in that basin. If the Scottish North Sea oil basin has a projected lifespan of around 100 years, and the SAM contains approx three of four times as much oil as the Scottish North Sea before extraction began there, I will let you work out the approx total number of years remaining for Scottish oil in all basins in Scottish territorial waters. It’s a crude measure I admit, but you get the idea.

Do not be fooled by negative Westminster estimates and doom-and-gloom predictions on the future of Scottish oil. Extraction technology is continually innovating, improving and developing to meet the deep-water challenges of the SAM. The pioneer waters of the SAM have been referred to by the oil industry as the new oil exploration province for the 21st century; not the mature Scottish North Sea province, so why does Westminster keep concentrating on the Scottish North Sea?

The OGA states that the UKCS is a world-class petroleum province. As over 80 per cent of the oil fields are in Scottish territorial waters then logically, the Scottish Continental Shelf is a world-class petroleum province. Why the OGA should state a 20-year timeline for Scottish oil and gas production, and concentrate on the mature Scottish North Sea province when mentioning total remaining reserves, I will leave readers to draw their own conclusions. If Scotland is a world-class petroleum province (as the OGA confirms indirectly), then Scottish independence is surely not a problem from an economic standpoint. Beware of disinformation on Scottish oil and gas in the run up to indyref2. One fact is crystal clear – Scotland is not a poor or mendicant nation.
William C McLaughlin