Sir Ian Wood, industry leaders and politicians today hailed Shell Brent’s tremendous 40-year achievement.
A Brent contract win served as a turning point in Sir Ian’s own career.
He said: “Brent is one of the two giant early fields in the North Sea and has had a major impact on the industry over the last 40 years, with a huge beneficial impact on the successful development of the UK supply chain. Over the years Shell has always been a very fine corporate citizen, participating in and contributing to all the industry challenges and growth opportunities and made a significant contribution to the UKCS developments.”
Alistair Hope, who has been tasked with managing the giant field’s decommissioning dubbed the development as “iconic”.
“Brent is one of the two giant early fields in the North. We all know and remember the iconic Brent Field – it really is a staple of the UK economy and something that we should all be proud to have been part of. The rate at which the field was first produced is an example of how pioneering the industry has been over the years,” he said.
“Reaching 40 years of production is a major milestone for both Shell and the oil and gas industry, which could not have been achieved without the commitment and hard work of the many thousands of people who have been associated with Brent for the past four decades. This is the true legacy of the Brent Field.”
Professor Paul de Leeuw, director of Robert Gordon University’s Oil and Gas Institute, echoed his sentiment.
He said: “The Brent field has been a truly iconic asset for the UK since its discovery in the early 1970. Brent has been a great example of innovation, pushing boundaries and for delivering ground breaking engineering achievements. Forty years on and with decommissioning around the corner, Brent continues to be a force both in the UK and on the world stage. With more than half of the world’s traded crude linked to Brent, the field and its incredible achievements will no doubt be remembered for many years to come.”
The field’s highs and lows have been analysed and documented by industry researcher and veteran Professor Alex Kemp.
The petroleum economics heavyweight said: “The discovery of the giant Brent field in July 1971 (though not publicly revealed until 1972) encouraged the view that there was very substantial oil and gas potential in the Northern North Sea and thus stimulated further exploration in the area. The technological challenges of developing the field produced a vigorous debate on the comparative merits of steel and concrete platforms.
“The construction and installing of the four huge platforms in the hostile North Sea environment required significant advances in technology. Unsurprisingly there was cost inflation and completion delays. The dramatic increase in oil prices ensured that the project economics remained robust. First production in November 1976 was a considerable achievement. Subsequently this single field made a major contribution to both oil and gas production from the UKCS. Its size and longevity has also meant that it has played in major role in the evolution of the oil and gas infrastructure in the UKCS, not only in the Northern North Sea itself but elsewhere such as at St. Fergus. The Brent oil market price is used in many parts of the world and it is likely that it will even outlast production from the field.”
This month marks 40 years of production from Brent.
By 2001, the Brent Field was yielding record levels of gas production; 25.5 million cubic metres per day. Its total oil and gas production reached 700,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day. The redevelopments, planning and commitment of everyone involved cemented Brent’s place in the North Sea’s history.
Shell’s VP for UK Upstream in UK and Ireland, Paul Goodfellow, said: “We have an asset that has produced more than 3billion barrels and, at its peak in 1982, the field was producing around 500,000 per day. That was enough energy to power half the homes in the country. Not only that, but it has also pumped more than £20billion of tax (and royalty) revenues in today’s money into the country’s coffers. But more than that, just think of the tens of thousands of people who have worked on Brent. I think we sometimes forget that, even in late life, it really is like a little city offshore. When the four platforms were producing we would generally have 600 or so people offshore at any point in time. As we go into the decommissioning phase, we’ve sometimes had more than that number out there.”
The landmark development is now setting the decommissioning bar.
Oil and Gas UK chief executive Deidre Michie added: “Over the years Brent has led the way for Shell and the UK industry as a whole.
“It was a game changer when it started out and has continued to reinvent itself, while contributing almost 10% of the region’s oil and gas, delivering billions of pounds to the UK economy and supporting tens of thousands of highly skilled jobs. No wonder we consider it to be one of the icons of our industry and its 40th anniversary since first production is certainly worth celebrating. Brent has delivered many triumphs and suffered tragedy too and so the many people, like me, who have worked for and supported Brent over the years, will likely view their time with a mix of pride and poignancy. As Brent moves through its decommissioning phase, it once again has the opportunity to set the marker for industry by taking a safe, efficient and cost effective approach. In this way it will continue to provide many jobs for years to come, enable ground breaking technology and ensure that the UK can become a global centre of excellence in terms of decommissioning delivery and capabilities.”
But the development’s significance transcends industry. Politicians from across party lines today hailed its achievements.
MSP Lewis Macdonald dubbed Brent one of the most important facets in the North Sea’s history.
“The story of Brent is one of the most important chapters in the history of North Sea oil,” he said.
“Brent was a huge find, one of the first of its kind in the hostile environment of the Northern North Sea, which took five major installations to produce its oil and gas and which required workers to make the epic journey to work from Aberdeen via Shetland on a monthly basis.
“Brent has had its share of human tragedies, such as the Chinook crash at Sumburgh thirty years ago, which was remembered this week, and of environmental controversies, as with the ill-fated decommissioning of Brent Spar in the 1990s.
“Brent has also sustained many thousands of jobs, both offshore and on the beach, and for some people Brent has been the whole of their working lives. It has led the way at every stage in the history of the Northern North Sea, from construction through production to decommissioning. Brent remains the leading benchmark for oil prices around the world.
“As production comes to an end, decommissioning creates an opportunity for Aberdeen’s skilled workers and business leadership to demonstrate innovation in the Brent field one more time. Government support is urgently needed to ensure that Scotland gets a major share of the decommissioning work here and across the North Sea, to end the Brent story in the best possible way.”
Callum McCaig MP added: “The Brent field is synonymous with the North Sea and has come to represent the world class expertise and resilience the oil and gas industry is known for. Production on Brent was expected to go on for just 25 years, but here we are 40 years later and although the peak has passed it is still going strong. That enviable success shows the innovation within this sector, brilliant minds, and hard work on projects over the past four decades is what has made the oil and gas industry successful. This business has changed a lot since 1976 and although we may not be expecting to find large fields like Brent in the future, new technologies to support exploration and extraction is up to the task of maximising the North Sea. A strong 40 years of Brent shows this industry knows how to survive tough times but with challenges facing it again, Governments must play their part to support vital jobs and energy needs.”
Finally, Alexander Burnett, Scottish Conservative energy spokesman, said the development has continued to defy expectations.
“It is a sign of the times and the changing face of the North Sea that the Brent Field, one of the most productive and best-known parts of the UK Continental Shelf, has now entered the decommissioning stage,” he said.
“I’m not sure if anyone would have thought at the time that production started in 1976 that the life of the field would have been extended beyond 2010. Brent has created thousands of jobs and generated billions in tax revenues for the UK Treasury while servicing the oil and gas needs of the UK for a number of years.
“It has been a quite incredible feat of engineering and testament to the skill and innovation within the industry here in the North East of Scotland.”
Energy Voice has teamed up with Shell to celebrate 40 years of Brent. This promoted series will examine the people, milestones and technology that helped make this historic North Sea find possible. It will also analyse what lies ahead for the breakthrough discovery. Happy 40th Brent!
To celebrate and capture the rich history of Brent, Shell is commissioning an e-memory book and an oral history project. If you have an unforgettable Brent story, or have an old photo or memory you would like to share, you can submit them at www.shell.co.uk/brentmemories. The oral history project will be interviewing a selection of candidates from a variety of roles and years to record the highlights and uncover the less widely known stories from the last 40 years. Digital recordings will be donated to The University of Aberdeen who will share these stories with anyone who is interested, from family members and researchers, to students and the public. Please contact Brentinfo@shell.com if you would like more information about these projects.