Book Review: Oil Strike North Sea by Mike Shepherd
Review by Guy Elliott, PESGB
Written from the perspective of someone right at the heart of the UK oil industry in Aberdeen the author takes the reader on journey of discovery. He starts the book by recalling the enormity of the effort that he is about to begin. He captures this by describing a flight out into the North Sea to visit the Magnus Oil platform, looking down he describes the scene as he flies over, seeing platform after platform, and a host of rigs all looking for new discoveries. As he looks down realising that this was a significant moment in history and especially in the history of the North Sea. The author Mike Shepherd is a production geologist with over 30 years’ experience in the industry having worked for companies like BP and Shell and therefore is able to give the insiders perspective or as he himself states ‘a personal perspective’.
There is a nice mix of content in the book. The author discusses the geology behind the search and production of oil, the financial decisions behind whether to explore and develop a field, and the inherent riskiness of the whole operation. The book plots the history of the North Sea from the first drilling in 1964 right up to the current oil price slump of 2015. Taking the reader on a journey through when the first fields where found, how and the quantities involved the highs of discoveries and the lows, especially the Piper Alpha disaster.
Equally important to the technical story is that of the human narrative that the book chooses to incorporate. You read about the early pioneers, the naysayers and those entitled the local heroes! What you begin to realise is that as much as the technical conditions need to be right the author freely admits that luck played and to continues to play its part. You would expect that the political agenda comes into the story thinking about the privatisation, the rise of Mrs Thatcher right up to the current day and the recent Scottish independence vote.
On the Scottish theme the author looks at the rise of Aberdeen and the revitalisation of a city and the development of the city as it has grown to accommodate the industry that has grown, the element of rags to riches and now the thoughts of how the city will adapt to a changing landscape.
As a non-specialist reader I wasn’t sure how I would find the book, would it be too technical, focus too much on the business of oil or even be a plotted history of the companies? I am pleased to say that none of my fears were realised. Yes it did have all three elements, however written from a perspective that the author assumes nothing and explains everything, but not in a patronising way. As a result the book proves to be a fascinating, fast paced book which truly is an easy read.