In marked contrast to the first drilling initiative when exploration was virtually entrusted to a single economy, a move that provoked complaints of ‘monopolisation’, licences are now awarded to and held by an extraordinary number and variety of companies. Indeed, up until the scramble for acreage really began in the 1970s, only a dozen or so companies had been engaged in exploration, and that often sporadically, entering the fray, drilling a few dry holes and retiring again. Only a couple can claim to have maintained an unbroken presence for a lengthy period, British Petroleum and British Gas. Historically, it may be the case that in terms of membership if not actual production, the onshore oil industry in Britain reached its peak during the early 1980s. By then, pressures favouring a rationalisation, or weeding out, were beginning to strengthen; continuing doubts over planning consents, a dearth of fresh discoveries, falling real oil prices, and a lack of immediate prospective exploration acreage all acted as a constraint on the crowded industry. At the time of writing, though, more than 50 companies, gathered together in various consortia, at least nine seismic survey firms, and up to half a dozen drilling contractors are wholly, or more likely partly, committed to exploration throughout Britain. It is with the first category, the oil or would-be oil (for many of them have not had a sniff of it) groups that this chapter is concerned. The intention is not so much to give a Who’s Who of the oil industry, although brief details of the main participants is given later, so much as to emphasise the forces within the industry, explain briefly their motives, which are not always financial, and to indicate the significance of their onshore activities.
KeywordsCarbon Dioxide Flooding Production Licence Energy Business Exploration Licence Fresh Discovery
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- 5.I. Foster, ‘Apples, Cherries and Maybe Oil’, Conoco magazine 1981, vol.12, pp.21 ff.Google Scholar