Five questions answered on BP’s £330m Atlantic offshore oil investment

Appraisal drilling.

BP, along with a consortium of other oil and gas companies, announced today it will invest £330m in appraisal drilling in the Atlantic Ocean.

How many appraisal wells will they be drilling?

They will be drilling five appraisal wells over the next two years in the Clair field, located in the Atlantic Ocean, west of Shetland.

The field was originally discovered 35 years ago but initial drilling didn’t start until 2005.

Who are the other members of the consortium?

The consortium is made up of BP Shell, ConocoPhillips and Chevron.

Why have the consortium chosen now to expand drilling in the field?

Clair is expected to hold eight billion barrels of oil, but up until now it has been technically difficult to drill. The government’s new oil and gas strategy, which was unveiled recently, may also have encouraged further production.

The strategy includes the government working with the industry to tackle a looming skills shortage, partly by re-training military leavers to fill some of the 15,000 new jobs anticipated to be created in the oil and gas sector over the next five years. The government will also encourage more technological advancement through research and development, as well as commitment to a new £7m Neptune offshore technology centre of excellence in Newcastle.

What are the consortium’s future plans for the Clair field?

Depending on these initial drilling results up to 12 further wells could be drilled.

It is hoped the appraisal programme will lead to a third phase, taking production well beyond 2050. Any new oil would continue to be pumped by pipeline to Shetland.

Analysts are predicting that the Atlantic could over take the North Sea as the UK's biggest oil-producing region within 20 years.

What has the Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said about this latest development in the Atlantic?

Davey said in a press release:

“This announcement by BP of a two year appraisal programme for the Greater Clair area West of Shetland is excellent news. It shows the industry’s commitment to maximise the potential in this area, which could hold up to 17 per cent of our oil and gas reserves. 

“Greater Clair proves there is still a long future for oil and gas production in the North Sea and will give confidence to new recruits that the industry offers a career for life.”

Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for

Grant Shapps on the campaign trail. Photo: Getty
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Grant Shapps resigns over Tory youth wing bullying scandal

The minister, formerly party chairman, has resigned over allegations of bullying and blackmail made against a Tory activist. 

Grant Shapps, who was a key figure in the Tory general election campaign, has resigned following allegations about a bullying scandal among Conservative activists.

Shapps was formerly party chairman, but was demoted to international development minister after May. His formal statement is expected shortly.

The resignation follows lurid claims about bullying and blackmail among Tory activists. One, Mark Clarke, has been accused of putting pressure on a fellow activist who complained about his behaviour to withdraw the allegation. The complainant, Elliot Johnson, later killed himself.

The junior Treasury minister Robert Halfon also revealed that he had an affair with a young activist after being warned that Clarke planned to blackmail him over the relationship. Former Tory chair Sayeedi Warsi says that she was targeted by Clarke on Twitter, where he tried to portray her as an anti-semite. 

Shapps appointed Mark Clarke to run RoadTrip 2015, where young Tory activists toured key marginals on a bus before the general election. 

Today, the Guardian published an emotional interview with the parents of 21-year-old Elliot Johnson, the activist who killed himself, in which they called for Shapps to consider his position. Ray Johnson also spoke to BBC's Newsnight:


The Johnson family claimed that Shapps and co-chair Andrew Feldman had failed to act on complaints made against Clarke. Feldman says he did not hear of the bullying claims until August. 

Asked about the case at a conference in Malta, David Cameron pointedly refused to offer Shapps his full backing, saying a statement would be released. “I think it is important that on the tragic case that took place that the coroner’s inquiry is allowed to proceed properly," he added. “I feel deeply for his parents, It is an appalling loss to suffer and that is why it is so important there is a proper coroner’s inquiry. In terms of what the Conservative party should do, there should be and there is a proper inquiry that asks all the questions as people come forward. That will take place. It is a tragic loss of a talented young life and it is not something any parent should go through and I feel for them deeply.” 

Mark Clarke denies any wrongdoing.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.