chapter  1
The Development Dilemma
WithJerome D. Davis
Pages 27

It is a virtual truism that the hydrocarbon resources in the North Sea will constitute a significant portion of that energy base on which Western economies will depend in the next two decades. These resources loom increasingly large in the European energy picture, at no time more so than at the time of writing, in a period of spiralling oil prices and trans-Atlantic and OPEC-OECD strife and dissension. Beginning with the onshore 1956 Dutch Schlocteren discovery – a gas field so large that the Esso New York management, unable to believe such a find, flew to Holland to confirm its incredible size – the search for oil and gas spread rapidly to the offshore areas of Europe. Gas was rapidly discovered in the southern British North Sea; oil was found in small amounts, first in Denmark and later in the British and Norwegian sectors, becoming really significant with the finds of the Forties field in the first area and the Ekofisk field in the second. The rest is largely history. OPEC oil price increases led to a frenetic pace of activity in the period 1973–80, particularly in the northern North Sea where finds of enormous (but expensive) fields, Statfjord, Brent and Ninian, further abetted exploration efforts. In 1977, for example, it was estimated that a sizeable portion of the average multinational oil corporation’s annually budgeted sums for exploration and production would be in the North Sea province. 1