As the global industry assembles in Houston for the Offshore Technology Conference, it will be in the midst of a quiet American revolution.
Margaret Thatcher agreed to a major review of energy policy at the height of the 1980s oil downturn after being warned of "daunting uncertainties" in the field, previously secret records reveal. Number 10 adviser John Wybrew told the then prime minister the review should consider how much government support should be provided to see the industry through the collapse. In a memo from July 1986, released by the National Archives today, he argues any attempt to formulate a "definitive master plan" would do "more harm than good".
The slump in the price of North Sea oil is no excuse for oil companies to cut back on spending on offshore safety measures, north-east MSP Lewis Macdonald said last night. Mr Macdonald, Scottish Labour’s energy spokesman, added: “The falling oil price is putting severe pressure on oil companies. “We’ve already heard about proposed job cuts among sub-contractors and of plans to cut wages but there can be no compromise on safety
A full-scale terrorist hijacking of a North Sea platform was simulated by the UK authorities in the 1980s – and code-named the “Smoked Salmon” exercises. Declassified files have revealed that the offshore counter-terror mission was run from November 25 to 28 in 1985. Royal Marines and members of all the armed services were involved in the exercise, as well as the intelligence agencies.
The UK Government abandoned plans to invest extra cash in North Sea safety two years before the Piper Alpha disaster – because it was not deemed a priority. Newly-released files show that Margaret Thatcher’s energy secretary highlighted the need to spend more on the sector in 1986. But Peter Walker, the minister at the time, said he had decided against asking the Treasury for any additional money after having “carefully reviewed my priorities”.