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Editorial comment

Britain’s North Sea oil and gas fields have long passed their glory days in terms of major finds and booming productivity, but recent tax breaks instigated by the UK’s Chancellor in his annual budget mean that ageing fields may receive some much-needed attention.

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The new package comprises £3 billion worth of tax breaks designed to expedite exploration work and better treatment of smaller fields. It is hoped that companies will be incentivised to buy up platforms and pipelines no longer wanted by the big oil majors; and these smaller, niche interest companies will maximise declining production and wrest the remaining resources from fields that might otherwise be abandoned as Shell, ExxonMobil, and co., look for bigger finds elsewhere in the world. The hope of major new discoveries in other parts of the world (Angola and Brazil to name but two), means that some pipeline infrastructure already in place near dwindling resources goes unused, even when there is still oil and gas to be recovered.

In an encouraging move, French oil services group Technip has just announced it has secured a contract worth approximately e600 million (US$ 795 million) to refurbish and develop oil installations in the North Sea, west of the Scottish Shetland Islands. Technip will work on the replacement of existing oil production facilities and the creation of new underwater infrastructure, enabling the potential recovery of an additional 450 million barrels of oil, extending production at the site to 2035.

In life, some of us only ever go for the big fish, while others are more than happy with a small catch of the day. It is generally accepted that there won’t be any further major discoveries in the North Sea, but with a little effort, those existing fields can be optimised, tied-back, connected up and given their due.

If there was ever a big fish of an exhibition, it’s the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC). You might be reading this copy of World Pipelines at OTC in Houston and, if you are, I hope you have managed to visit our booth at 8845 in the Reliant Arena.

This month’s regional review (p. 12) focuses on the Gulf of Mexico. World Pipelines’ correspondent Gordon Cope tracks the resurgence of the sector since the Deepwater Horizon tragedy in 2010. He also looks at potential new targets in the Gulf and the long-term prospects for the area.

This is a must-read for anyone working in the Gulf and also anyone who wants to know how a focus on safety is shaping the future of offshore exploration and production. As Cope writes: “While the scale of renewed activity is heartening, most participants acknowledge that the focus in the Gulf of Mexico has been changed forever.” Safety and the environment are at the forefront of all future development.

To find out how companies are translating this new focus into their ongoing offshore activities all over the world, turn to p. 18 for the annual Offshore Technology Review. This year’s review shows, more than ever, that contractors, suppliers and service companies value the importance of working safely offshore. Big fish or small, we are all responsible for a safer, smarter, more efficient offshore industry.

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