Setting the stage for world class acts

The first show in 1973 was called Offshore Scotland
The first show in 1973 was called Offshore Scotland

Forty years ago, the North Sea was a mere stripling of an energy province; no one had a clue how much oil and gas was out there, except that sceptics said it would all be over in a decade.

Now, in 2013, the conversation is about another 40 or more years of production from the UK Continental Shelf. And who knows what resource prizes may yet be encountered or whether the not even properly born onshore shale gas opportunity might yet extend beneath the grumpy North Sea?

Thanks to the vision of largely one man, David Stott, Aberdeen will next month again host the latest Offshore Europe, world-class and among the top three maritime oil and gas shows in the world.

The beginnings were more humble . . . as a cluster of tents erected in the grounds of Aberdeen University and Aberdeen Arts Centre in chilly March 1973. As he recalled in the March 2013 edition of Energy, it all began as an idea hatched in a holiday camp in Great Yarmouth.

“It was Spring 1971, and the occasion was an exhibition – Oceanex – with which my tiny publishing company, Spearhead, had become involved,” he wrote.

“North Sea gas fields had become well established off the English East Coast, but as a result of the series of dramatic announcements about oil finds in the Northern North Sea, it seemed to me that Aberdeen would be the main centre for offshore activity in the future.

“I had some knowledge of the city from my time in the late 50s as a journalist covering the fishing industry, and also some very limited experience of exhibition organising.

“After some research and with a great deal of trepidation, I gave a small press conference at the Station Hotel in April 1972 and announced the go-ahead.

“We would never have got Offshore Scotland (as it then was) launched if it was not for four men – John Hutton and Jim Dinnes of the North-East Scotland Development Authority (NESDA), and Alan Robertson and Jim Main of the University of Aberdeen.

“We settled on March 20-23, 1973 – the year determined after discussion with officials from Stavanger – that city having also decided that the time was ripe for an oil exhibition.

“They followed on in 1974 with ONS, and the two shows have alternated ever since.

“Selling the concept to potential exhibitors took a while, and my Dutch contact suggested that a tented show in March in Aberdeen was mad beyond belief.”

Little wonder; while the North Sea had since the mid-1960s yielded a number of sizeable gas discoveries in the south and Britons were being systematically switched across from coal to natural gas, oil was a tougher challenge as the following canter through the earliest years demonstrates.

To view and buy a wide selection of images from the last 40 years of Offshore Europe, visit PhotoshopScotland or call 01224 343332