"Fifty years ago, the first hydrocarbon discovery was made in the UK sector of the North Sea, with the West Sole gas find. Just two years later the field came onstream, and today it continues to produce. The discovery heralded the start of the oil and gas industry in Northwest Europe, with huge, game-changing finds such as the Forties, Brent and Piper fields swiftly following in the 1970s.

Developing these fields over 40 years ago presented tremendous technological challenges and, at the time, little or no thought was given to how they would eventually be decommissioned. While many older fields have continued to produce long after their original lifespan, the United Kingdom, according to the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA), is now on the brink of abandoning more wells than it drills. The industry, it seems, is at a tipping point where decommissioning, rather than field development, will become the main source of activity within the next decade."

Written by Catherine MacFarlane Field Development Analyst at IHS

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