This item was published during the term of a previous administration that ended in April 2007
Striking an environmental balance
A balance must be struck between environmental protection and offshore exploration to esnure sustainable development, a marine environment conference was told today.
Deputy Minister for Enterprise, Transport and Lifelong Learning Lewis Macdonald highlighted the need for a partnership between industry, science and government when harnessing the UK's energy resources.
The conference was organised by Atlantic Frontier Environmental Network (AFEN), a consortium of oil and gas companies, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Fisheries Research Service and Joint Nature Conservation Committee to look at research work carried out in the north and west Atlantic margins.
Mr Macdonald said:
"The offshore industry plays a vital role in the economic and social well being of Scotland, but we need to ensure that we achieve a balance between prosperity and environmental protection.
"Conserving our marine biodiversity, habitats and ecological processes while meeting our economic needs is the key to a sustainable future.
"Over £5 million has been channelled into research work carried out by some of the UK's top scientists on behalf of the Atlantic Frontier Environmental Network over the last seven years. These discoveries will enable companies to reap the economic benefits of the Atlantic Margin while effectively minimising any environmental impact.
"Scottish companies have an excellent track record in subsea technology which, combined with their innovation and development potential, puts them on the global map.
"The AFEN research findings now means these companies can approach this development confidently, ensuring that inevitable environmental impacts are not irreversible.
"AFEN will continue to generate information essential to making sound environmental decisions about oil and gas developments in this region. This is a clear example of government and industry working in partnership to ensure sustainable development and sound management of the region's resources."
Atlantic Frontier Environmental Network (AFEN):
Increased activity in the region triggered the formation in 1995 of AFEN, an innovative grouping of oil companies and UK Government departments whose focus has been to increase knowledge of the area's natural environment.
The current membership of the Atlantic Frontier Environmental Network (AFEN) comprises the following oil and gas companies: Agip UK, Amerada Hess, BG, BP, ChevronTexaco, Conoco, Enterprise Oil, ExxonMobil, Marathon, Phillips, Shell Expro, Statoil, TotalFinaElf and Veba Oil, together with the Department of Trade and Industry, Fisheries Research Service (Scottish Executive Environment & Rural Affairs Department) and Joint Nature Conservation Committee.
The UK offshore oil and gas industry has been active in the Atlantic Margin for nearly 30 years (since 1972). Over 200 wells have been drilled, two fields are in production (BP's Schiehallion and Foinaven) and a third field is due to come on stream by the end of 2004 (BP's Clair).
OIL AND GAS INDUSTRY - KEY ECONOMIC FACTS:
Providing around 80 per cent of Britain's primary fuel requirements, the Oil and Gas industry supports 270,000 jobs in the UK and accounts for seven per cent of total Scottish employment. Using a highly skilled labour force, much of the work being carried out is at the leading edge of technology.
The industry has invested a total of £194 billion and paid £166 billion in taxes to the Treasury since offshore development first began in the mid 1960s (2000 prices). Last year it accounted for around 13 per cent of total UK industrial investment.
Discovered in 1977, the Clair Field covers an area of 220 square kilometres and is located approximately 75km west of Shetland in water depth of about 150 metres.
Original appraisal well drilling assessed the field to be economically unviable, however Subsea technology has now advanced to such a degree that this is no longer the case.
With a project value of £650 million, the Clair Partnership comprises BP (operator), Conoco, ChevronTexaco, Enterprise Oil and Amerada Hess and should create around 1000 jobs.