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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - June 5, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta LETHBRIDGE May North Sea I oil boom may rescue U.K. j I from distress I LONDON (Reuter) Britain's offshore oil boom may rescue the country just in time from dire financial distress. "It could not have come at a better time for our economic prospects." says Energy Secretary Eric Varley. A recent report from the oilfields indicates oil reserves around British shores are even higher than enough to make the country self-sufficient by 1980. If true, this would relieve Britain of the estimated oil-import bill which now burdens its international trade deficit. Without the offshore oils, economic experts find it difficult to see how Britain could hope to struggle out of debt without sharply reducing living stand- ards. As it is, the country could soon be producing as much oil as Kuwait and earning a staggering bilJion- a year. The sharp oil price increases at the end of 1973, which seemed at first a crushing blow, might now work in Britain's favor. Estimates high Some industry sources believe actual reserves may be much higher than the predicted 2.95 billion tons. Ten years ago, nobody dreamt so much oil lay beneath the waters of the North Sea. In November, 1970, British Petroleum struck the rich forties field about 100 miles east of the Scottish coast. Its potential now is reckoned at bar- rels a day, roughly a fifth of Britain's current consumption. At first the big companies were cautious, knowing that to stab a hole two miles deep in the rocky seabed would cost on average million. But the success rate proved high. In year Middle East oil prices shot new North Sea fields were found to be commercially viable. That brought the total to 10. Given a similar rate of success in coming years, current industry projections for British offshore production after 1980 suggest up to 150 million tons annually. This would represent 20 to 25 per cent above Britain's needs and about 20 per cent of West Europe's current consumption. By the end of the decade, about billion will have been spent in exploration and development. Work difficult Extracting North Sea oil is clearly more difficult than from the sands of the Middle East. Production rigs are among the biggest ever built and working aboard the near 100-foot waves is sometimes dangerous. Deep-sea divers are working near the limit of known technology. A few years ago useful work at about 500 feet was believed impossible. Severe winter weather precludes any serious work on installing rigs and pipelines during that season. Acceptable weather lasts from about April to August. Still to be resolved is what share Britain will get out of the North Sea profits. When oil from other places was cheap, British authorities granted prospecting licences on what now look like bargain terms. Before winning the February 28 general election, Britain's Labor party promised to bring oil extraction and distribution "under full government control with majority public participation.'' No word yet Since the election, the government has said little about its specific plans for oil. A statement has been promised fcr Parliament later this year. But government ministers have made clear they do not intend to scare away the international oil companies without whose skill little progress can be made. Some officials suggest the industry could still operate at a handsome profit if 50 or 60 per cent of the North Sea earnings were pared off in the form of government revenue. But other problems lie ahead. Loud protests are being raised in Scotland that cherished Highland scenery is being spoiled for the sake of an industry that can last only 20 years. Some residents also complain that the rig workers bring a Klondyke-type rowdiness to their once peaceful district. Local police confirm this. "Nothing said a police chief in the town of Tain, "but our lockup (jail) now does 600 per cent more business than before." Brings success The boom has brought unexpected success for the Scottish National party which for years fought a losing campaign to make Scotland independent of England. After pointing out that off-shore oil could make Scotland England was excluded from the oH scored their biggest-ever success in the February general election. The first oil should start flowing in J975. But because of production setbacks, due partly to bad weather and partly to general industrial disruption, the output for 1975 is forecast at only five million tons instead of the 25 million previously expected. Sears CORRECTION Versatile Kenmore zig-zag. Rugged! Powerful, reliable! Charge it on your all-purpose account Reg. 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