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

Appraisal drilling.

New Statesman
Photograph: Getty Images

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.”