Editorial: Independence Blackjack In The North Sea Casino

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Tim Haïdar


"I like to play blackjack. I'm not addicted to gambling. I'm addicted to sitting in a semi-circle." - Mitch Hedberg (1968 - 2005)

After the CEO of British Petroleum, Bob Dudley, expressed his concerns over higher operating costs in the aftermath of possible Scottish Independence, news reaches us of another cold front massing in the North Sea.

Anglo-Dutch supermajor, Shell, is planning to sell off its Anasuria, Nelson and Sean platforms part of the wide-ranging divestment plan of CEO, Bert van Beurden, which we covered here. Whilst the company has been pledged since the turn of the year to a $15 billion divestment programme to create a leaner business unit with increased shareholder returns, the timing of the announcement may belie some political motivations.

Despite discontent amongst the masters and commanders of the industry, the last North Sea licensing round had been the most successful on record, with tax allowances leading to an investment boom on the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS). UK ministers are also poised to green light The Wood Report's recommendation for a new Scottish-based oil and gas regulator to marshal the "huge prize" of a mooted £200 billion economic bonanza over the next 20 years.

Up to 2040, it is estimated that 98.8 per cent of UK oil production will come from within the Scottish demarcation of the UKCS. An independent Scotland would bequeath a mere dribble of the Black Gold to her divorced partner to the South.

Seven months to the day until Scots decide whether they wish to untie the bonds that have united a kingdom for more than 300 years, both government and industry find themselves side by side in that familiar semi-circle. But who will stick and who will twist?....

Will Scottish independence mean more uncertainty for the oil industry?





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