How to make a ‘potentially massive’ oil find one that ‘isn’t a big find’? Just lie, omit and minimise. Ask BBC Scotland.

February 1, 2018

By John Robertson - Scotland

Here’s what yesterday’s announcement by BP looked like in an anonymous (junior reporter?) Herald report yesterday:

‘BP oil find is major boost to North Sea production. Oil giant BP has announced the discovery of what is believed to be a large North Sea field in a boost that could extend production by more than three decades. The firm has made two significant oil finds, one west of Shetland and another in the central North Sea. That should lead to production doubling to 200,000 barrels a day within two years.’

The BBC reports below are a bit different. I’m sure you’ve guessed already what’s coming or perhaps what’s not coming. First, a quick look at how industry representative, Mark Thomas, BP North Sea regional president, put it in Energy Voice:

‘These are exciting times for BP in the North Sea as we lay the foundations of a refreshed and revitalised business that we expect to double production to 200,000 barrels a day by 2020 and keep producing beyond 2050.’



Before, we look at how BBC Scotland reacted, let me add some numbers, to help monetarise the above quantities and justify the optimistic language. BP expect to double production to 200 000 barrels per day so that’s an extra 100 000 barrels. Brent crude is selling above $70 per barrel and prices are expected to rise dramatically in 2018-20. However, sticking with the $70 figure, BP will be earning an extra $7 million per day or $2.55 billion per year and, by 2050 (I know they said ‘beyond’), a total of $81.76 billion plus inflation! Production costs are currently $12-15 per barrel and falling, so the scope for revenue coming to a Scottish treasury is clearly well within the ‘massive’ category. Finally remember this is the revenue from only two fields. See this for more, much more:

£290 billion of tax revenue still in the North Sea and much more to the west of Shetland

Right, steel yourself, it’s time for the BBC Scotland reports. First from the website with ‘Analysis by Kevin Keane, BBC Scotland environment correspondent.’ Why not the business correspondent Douglas Fraser? He usually does (down) oil and gas. Here’s what Kevin had to say with my comments in square brackets and underlined, after each:

 ‘BP announces two North Sea discoveries [just ‘two’, no indication of scale]. BP says the discoveries could [experts ‘expect’] lead to a major expansion of its North Sea production. BP said in 2017 it hoped [experts ‘expect’]to double North Sea oil production to 200,000 barrels by 2020 [no mention of beyond 2050] through a range of projects. In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t a big find [no mention by BP, expert, or reliable source for this claim]. BP has given no indication how much oil and gas it expects from these two wells [a lie-‘doubling to 200 000’ so just divide by 2?], but the mood music suggests it will be small to moderate [What mood music? From whom?]. Any development will most likely be tagged to existing infrastructure. What this speaks to though is the broader outlook for an industry which has been in the doldrums [relevance?]. When times are bad [relevance?], oil companies halt the financial gamble of searching for more “black-stuff” and concentrate on the production that makes them money. Exploration has been virtually non-existent since the oil price crashed and confidence for the future has been low [gross exaggeration and not sourced]. But this, and some other recent discoveries, are clear indicators that the bottom has been hit. The oil price is relatively high [‘relatively’? – passing $70pb from $27.67 in January 2016] and the government has made some supportive changes to the tax structure. Boom time? Not a bit of it [evidence?]. This is an industry which wants to be seen as lean and frugal. But is is clearly on a purposefully [evidence?] slow bounce back.’

Stunning isn’t it? Propaganda at its least subtle and he’s not finished yet. Remember, they gave this to the Environment Correspondent, so the piece finishes with this:

‘However, environmentalists have responded with dismay to the news that production in the area was the be stepped up. Gina Hanrahan, acting head of policy at WWF Scotland said: “Just weeks after it was reported 2017 was one of the hottest years on record, it seems perverse to be aiming to double production of North Sea oil. Instead we need to see a just transition that enables us to harness the engineering skills currently deployed in the North Sea and apply them to supporting a range of cleaner forms of energy production.”’

I’m not unsympathetic to the Environmental position but this has been exploited here simply to weaken confidence in the Scottish economy post-independence.

Finally, what did Reporting Scotland have to say? I watched/skimmed RS for the first time in nearly a year and heard this from Jackie Bird:

The oil giant BP says it’s made two discoveries in the North Sea. Further appraisal work is underway following initial drilling at the Capercaillie field east of Aberdeen and the Achmelvich field west of Shetland. If viable, they’re expected to be connected to existing production platforms. BP’s managing director for the North Sea said: ‘the recent rises in the oil price haven’t had a bearing on investment decisions.’

I don’t feel well. Before I have a relapse, I’d better finish this off.

Reporting Scotland kept it late (sixth item) and short (less than one minute). What has been included, what has been excluded, the language and the shortness of the report have been well-chosen to make this seem like nothing much at all and certainly not something any wavering ‘No’ voter should take any note of.

You can read more from  John Robertson at

featured image BBC

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