Less oil: North Sea oil extraction falls in 2011 to lowest level in 30 years
Muenster, Germany – Oil has been extracted from the North Sea for more than forty years now. According to a study by IWR, a renewable energy institute in Muenster, the amount of oil drilled from the North Sea is dropping faster than previously believed, with only 124.7 million t of crude oil extracted in 2011. This represents a fall of 12 percent against the previous year (140 million t in 2010) and takes oil extraction in the area to its lowest level in 30 years (1982). IWR Director Dr Norbert Allnoch said, "Compared to the record-breaking year of 1996, which saw 260 million t drilled from the sea, oil extraction has already fallen by as much as around 50 percent." The IWR study used data supplied by government organisations from oil producing countries on the North Sea − Great Britain, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany.
- Newly discovered oil fields cannot stop the drop in North Sea oil -
Since the peak in oil extraction in 1996, North Sea oil fields have continued to supple less and less oil. According to Allnoch, even newly discovered and supposedly large oil fields cannot prevent the general decline of North Sea oil; at best, he said, they simply extend drilling activities for fractionally longer. "We would have to uncover a new huge oil field each year with a capacity of 125 million t to be able to even maintain current oil extraction rates. But this is just a fantasy", Allnoch explained. If oil extraction is kept at the same level as 2011 (125 million t), the known and tested reserve fields in the North Sea will only last until 2020. If the as yet unconfirmed reserves were actually found to exist, this would mean drilling could go on for a little longer, but nevertheless, according to Allnoch, "the amount of North Sea oil will largely be insignificant in in 10 years’ time".
- North Sea in transition: from oil field to wind farm -
Allnoch believes that the North Sea will continue to be used as a source of energy. The coming years will see the oil industry take a back seat, while the offshore wind industry is already picking up in Great Britain, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. "The offshore wind industry is now where the offshore oil industry was in 1971, when North Sea oil extraction began. This industry has overcome enormous challenges posed by new extraction technologies and innovations, something that the offshore wind industry will also experience," said Allnoch, who is confident that Europe can continue to provide a safe supply of energy using its own sources.
Oil extraction from the North Sea began in the early seventies. The oil crisis of 1973/74 made drilling for oil in the North Sea all the more lucrative. Great Britain, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany are the five countries involved in oil extraction in this area. One of the first known major oil fields named "Brent" (north-east of the Shetland Isles) is symbolic of North Sea oil. The price of Brent oil is a major benchmark on the stock markets. Oil extraction in the North Sea has followed a bell-shaped curve, with oil production rising to 260 million t (peak oil) from 1971 to 1996 before falling ever faster in recent years.
Around 90.5 million t of crude oil was imported to Germany in 2011. The largest suppliers of oil are Russia (34.7 million t), followed by Great Britain (12.7 million t), Norway (7.4 million t) and Nigeria (5.4 million t).
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