Oil and gas in the UK

    With over 100 years of onshore exploration and 50 years in the North Sea, the UK has unique expertise in exploration and production.

    An overview of the oil and gas industry in the UK

    There are over 380 fields producing oil and gas in the UK today. That’s resulted in 43 billion barrels of oil being recovered from the UK Continental Shelf, with estimates stating that 22 billion barrels of recoverable reserves remain.

    The UK’s potential doesn’t stop there. New opportunities, like decommissioning, are opening up for companies too.

    Market conditions

    With over 100 years experience, businesses can be sure that they’re entering a market that’s widely acknowledged as a global leader.

    We are well placed to investigate new technologies and innovations. The UK is now focusing on technically challenging methods of extraction and production, including:

    • heavy oil
    • high-pressure, high-temperature extraction
    • enhanced oil recovery
    • special materials for sealing systems

    Safe development of shale gas

    Onshore, the UK government is backing the safe development of shale gas because it’s good for jobs, energy security and the UK’s plans to decarbonise the economy.

    According to a report published by Ernst & Young in 2014, investment in shale could reach £33 billion and support 64,000 jobs.

    The British Geological Survey has identified areas with potentially large reserves of shale gas and oil. UK geology is promising, but we make no assumptions about production levels. We need exploration to determine the potential.

    Our current priority is investment in new gas plants with new build, storage and distribution opportunities. Our switch from coal to gas will require storage and distribution network upgrades.

    A highly skilled workforce and supportive skills sector

    Our technologies are at the forefront of the environmental sector. This has resulted in a large, highly developed and flexible workforce.

    Over 350,000 people are employed by the oil and gas industry in the UK. That includes over 50,000 experts in subsea production, who have pioneered deep-sea exploration and extraction.

    Our education sector is closely aligned with oil and gas. All levels of training are provided, ensuring present and future generations of our workforce are highly skilled. This includes technical and vocational skills as well as undergraduate and postgraduate studies and research.

    Government support for UK oil and gas

    In 2015, the UK government introduced a 1.3 billion GBP package of tax measures for the oil and gas industry to ensure that the UK Continental Shelf remains an attractive destination for investment.

    The government also committed 20 million GBP in funding for the second round of seismic surveys to support new exploration activity on the UK Continental Shelf. This will give companies a greater chance of discovering opportunities without having to fund the surveys themselves.

    The government also has up to 50 billion GBP available to support finance and insurance for supplies from within the UK to buyers outside the UK. This support takes the form of guarantees, insurance and loans issued by its export credit agency, UK Export Finance.

    Last updated 10 March 2017

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