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Wednesday, 16 January, 2002, 19:59 GMT
Oil field to produce after 10 year break
Graphic, BBC
Britain's oldest North Sea oil field is on course to start producing again - 10 years after it was closed down and abandoned.


It's good to see two small new British companies taking a fresh and imaginative look at the opportunities in the North Sea

Energy Minister Brian Wilson
In a unique step, the UK Government has issued licences to redevelop the Argyll Field and its sister fields using new technology.

It is hoped oil will flow again from Argyll by 2003.

The Argyll Field produced Britain's first North Sea oil in 1975, three months ahead of BP's Forties Field. Argyll and the nearby Duncan and Innes fields were then closed down at the beginning of the 90s because they were no longer considered economically viable.

Sophisticated bits

This decision was taken even though more than half of their oil reserves remained untapped. Now, for the first time in the North Sea, the three old fields are to be redeveloped using the latest techniques in horizontal drilling.

Oil workers
It is hoped production will begin in 2003
These allow a single rig to send out boreholes in many directions, using sophisticated computer-driven drill bits that can go around difficult geological structures to find even the smallest oil pockets.

The technology to send out many lateral holes from the one platform means that wells once considered too expensive to be tapped on their own can be made economic.

Some drilling platforms will now sink holes that extend many kilometres out from their anchored position on the sea bed.

'Imaginative' companies

The Aberdeen-based oil company, Tuscan Energy, and its partner, Acorn, have been awarded government licences to exploit the old fields.

Tuscan Energy's Dave Workman said: "The technology that was used to develop the field in the first instance was early 1970s technology.

"We are no going to use horizontal drilling and that will bring us into contact with more of the oil in the reservoir and we'll get some of the 60% of the oil that was left behind by the previous development."

In August 2001, new figures revealed that oil production in the UK fell to its lowest level in six years. Economists from the Royal Bank of Scotland published statistics that showed production was below two million barrels a day during June last year.

Announcing the licences, Energy Minister Brian Wilson said: "Tuscan and Acorn will use the latest technology to reopen Argyll and extract more of the remaining oil.

"Subsequently they should be able to reopen the old Duncan and Innes fields too, both of which were abandoned at same time as Argyll.

"It's good to see two small new British companies taking a fresh and imaginative look at the opportunities in the North Sea, and introducing productive new alliances with the supply chains."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's John Morrison
"It was the first oil to flow from the North Sea"
Energy Minister Brian Wilson
"This is the future for the North Sea"
See also:

21 Aug 01 | Scotland
Oil production hits six-year low
20 Aug 01 | Business
UK oil rigs face recruitment crisis
05 Jul 01 | Scotland
Firm celebrates oil find
23 Oct 00 | Scotland
High price fuels oil boom
08 Sep 00 | Scotland
BP unveils 2.75bn investment plan
05 Sep 00 | Scotland
Positive outlook for oil industry
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