North Sea Oil and Gas

We are developing this page with the aim of providing accessible information on the North Sea oil and gas sector.  As you scroll down you’ll find:

  1. Link to an important report by Juan Carlos Boué
  2. Links to interviews with Neil Rothnie on worker organisation in the North Sea
  3. Link to the Sea Change report which provides dated information on the feasibility and importance of just transition away from oil and gas production.

The UK North Sea as a Global Experiment in Neoliberal Resource Extraction

The UK’s North Sea oil tax regime, which has handed super-profits to international oil companies while the taxpayer now foots the bill for decommissioning, is forensically analysed in this report by Juan Carlos Boué.

Boué argues that, since the 1970s, these tax arrangements have been “at the forefront of the process of redefinition of the economic frontiers of the State”. These “neoliberal governance structures”, designed in the UK, were exported across the world in the 1980s and 1990s, along with privatisation and “market liberalisation”. The global spread of the UK governance model did produce oil production gains, Boué concludes, “but also destabilised many key petroleum producers, whose governments found themselves starved of fiscal income”.

Boué also brings the story right up to date, showing how, as North Sea oil production declines, the government has pushed the burden of decommissioning costs on to the public purse, while the oil companies eke out every last drop of oil, and of profit, from their operations.

Boué’s article is very relevant to labour organisations and environmentalists seeking a “just transition” away from oil, that will help to tackle dangerous climate change by ending production, but also protect the livelihoods of communities that for the last two generations have been dependent on oil.

“Just transition” implies that money made from oil should be used to prepare those communities for a future without oil. Boué’s analysis is timely, because he not only dissects the tax rules that have so effectively mis-directed funds into company coffers, but shows how and why they were put in place.

Boué is exceptionally well qualified to write on these matters, having spent his professional life in the oil and gas sector, and worked as an academic researcher of the industry and as counsel at an international law firm. This publication is supported by PCS, the civil service trade union, and Platform London, the campaigning non-governmental organisation.

Download the full report

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Organising among the North Sea workforce

The People and Nature website hosts a three part interview conducted in 2012 with Neil Rothnie, that provides very import insights into the history of organisation in the North Sea Oil and Gas sector (it also has links to early copies of the rank and file newsletter Blowout, which Neil edited.

Part 1: The reaction to Piper Alpha

Part 2: The OILC and the unions

Part3: Coal, oil and after

Sea Change

‘Sea Change – climate emergency, jobs and managing the phase-out of UK oil and gas extraction’ is co-published by Platform, Oil Change International and Friends of the Earth Scotland. It finds that

  • The UK’s 5.7 billion barrels of oil and gas in already-operating oil and gas fields will exceed the UK’s share in relation to Paris climate goals – whereas industry and government aim to extract 20 billion barrels;
  • Recent subsidies for oil and gas extraction will add twice as much carbon to the atmosphere as the phase-out of coal power saves;
  • Given the right policies, job creation in clean energy industries will exceed affected oil and gas jobs more than threefold.