The United Kingdom and the North Sea
Natural Gas
Global Warming
The United Kingdom and the North Sea
For more information, go to the sections on the North Sea and Norway.

For some time I have been encouraging people to be very observant of energy events in the UK, and this past year (2006) has fit the pattern that I have been predicting. I believe the UK will be the first major industrialized country to face the permanent global oil crisis head on. (The USA reached its peak decades ago, but not coincident with global peak, as will likely be the case for the UK.) A couple of signposts:

"Last week Britain released the latest national energy statistics through the end of 2006. Total production was 196.1 million tons of oil equivalent, 9.0 per cent lower than in 2005. Within this, production of petroleum fell by 9.3 percent, production of natural gas fell by 9.1 percent and production of coal fell by 8.3 percent." Peak Oil Review [2007 February 26]

"Britain is reportedly to be importing liquified gas, for the first time in history as its North Sea oil reserve dwindles..." [2005 July 4 (Xinhua)]

From 2001:

"The North Sea is now at peak, with the UK being off 7% in 2000 and 16% off October to October, meaning that production is set to fall by one-half in ten years...." [2001 April (Peak Oil: a Turning for Mankind)]

Look at the numbers: Norway has 4 million people and a significant amount of oil -- over 4,000 barrels per capita -- even though production is about to decline. The UK has nearly the same amount of oil, but with its significantly larger population, the remaining oil translates to only 250 barrels per person.

Some may think that 2000 was a hard year for the people in the UK who depend on oil -- truck drivers, fishermen and farmers -- who have protested vigorously against rising prices. Looking back in a few years, 2000 will seem like a picnic compared to what is in store. As the permanent global oil crisis shows its first symptoms in the UK, it appears to be a political or economic issue. It is hard to admit that this is Mother Nature speaking. She is beginning to reveal her limits, and few are prepared for the cold reality She is about to impose on life in the British Isles.

It is time for people in the UK to become familiar with the facts. It's none too soon to get ready for some long hard winters. Before the crisis hits hard, buy a few extra sweaters, solar panels and perhaps even an electric vehicle for yourself and your family. Develop wind energy, the most economical form of electrical generation -- Denmark, Germany, India and others have figured that much out. With so much more good fortune than most nations -- to have had the benefit of major oil resources for a few years to capitalize and build a sustainable economy -- what's holding up the works in the UK?

Ron Swenson, Webmaster
[2001 April 28]

The UK Became Net Importer of Oil During 2006: IEA and EIA Hint Permanently, ODAC [2007 March]

The most recent data released by the UK Dept of Trade and Industry shows that the UK was a net oil importer for 2006. With both the world's foremost energy agencies, the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), forecasting that the UK will return to its long-term trend of severe oil depletion in 2008, the days of the UK being a net oil exporter for longer than a few months are over.
UK To Be Permanent Net Oil Importer In 2007, by Cattle Network [2006 October 2]
"The U.K. is set to become a permanent net importer of crude oil and refined products in 2007 - three years earlier than the U.K.'s Department of Trade and Industry expects, according to the U.K.-based Oil Depletion Analysis Centre Monday.

"Depletion rates of the U.K.'s oil and gas reserves in the North Sea are occurring faster than expected and production coming onstream in the next few years from new fields won't be enough to compensate, said ODAC director Douglas Low."

Energy: A Burning Issue for Foreign Policy, by Sir David Manning at Stanford University [2006 March 13]
"Here then are five factors which are changing the energy landscape: rising demand; dwindling supply; greater concentration of resource in the hands of a few; limited spare capacity; and the environmental impacts of energy use....

"Whether you are concerned about the impact of carbon dioxide on the stability of our atmosphere, or about reducing your dependence on foreign oil, it is clear that the solution is technology....

"I believe that Europe and the US need a far more coherent transatlantic dialogue about energy."

Review of USGS report on North Sea Reserve Growth (by Klett and Gautier) for Petroleum Geoscience by Jean Laherrère [2004 July 16]

Oil and Gas - a Short Period of History for Great Britain

"The UK and Ireland have built an infrastructure that requires natural gas in large quantities, which in the future they will need to import. For the coming years, it may be possible to import from Norway, but that requires Norway to step up its production, which means in turn that its resources will decline much faster. It risks being soon in the same situation as is the UK today.

"In [the] long term it is [a] very big risk for Europe to rely on Norwegian natural gas. It would be better for Europe if Norway did not increase its production. That would keep the present export lines full for longer."

Is Britain facing an energy crisis? The Future of Energy, by Tom Feilden, Environment correspondent, BBC [2004 Feb 20]

"As our stocks of North Sea oil and gas run dry, and our ageing nuclear reactors reach the end of their shelf-life, the Government has embarked on an energy review to decide the best way to plug the growing energy gap. So what is the best way forward?"

Plan now for a world without oil by Michael Meacher, Financial Times [2004 January 05]

"It is hard to envisage the effects of a radically reduced oil supply on a modern economy or society, writes Michael Meacher, UK environment minister from 1997 to June 2003."

The Bottom of the Barrel by George Monbiot, The Guardian [2003 December 2]

"Oil is running out, but no one wants to talk about it." This article references a "huge" new field in the British section of the North Sea which will meet the needs of humanity for five and a quarter days!

Oil reserves and UK airport capacity ASPO newletter #34, Article 251, by John Busby [2003 October]

"Diminishing oil reserves will curtail air traffic in a decade or so, and the suggested expansion of airports and associated runways is likely to lead to a surplus of capacity. It is not just a question of price or affordability. An exponentially increasing annual amount of jet fuel when extracted from a declining quantity of crude oil at lower yields will accelerate the emptying of the reserves."

Energy White Paper Our energy future - creating a low carbon economy [pdf, 2 MB] [Summary], Presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry by Command of Her Majesty [2003 February] The Busby Report: UK Survival in the 21st Century. [2002]

The sun has set on the 20th Century, when the “black gold” of oil provided the mobility for the creation of a global community. This report considers the measures to be taken to ensure the survival of the United Kingdom in a new century during which the world’s oil will run out.

Field by field analysis of UK oil production (data source: Department of Trade and Industry; Analysis and forecast: LBST)
For a graphic overview, see Analysis of the UK Oil Production, a contribution to ASPO (Association for the Study of Peak Oil), Ottobrunn, by Werner Zittel, LB-Systemtechnik GmbH [2001 February 22]
To continue your fact-finding, please go to the section on the North Sea, featuring...
  • The Impact of Declining Major North Sea Oil Fields upon Future North Sea Production
  • Simmons warns of North Sea collapse
  • Peak Oil: a Turning for Mankind
  • and more.

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