COVID-19 Update: We are currently shipping orders daily. However, due to transit disruptions in some geographies, deliveries may be delayed. To provide all customers with timely access to content, we are offering 50% off Science and Technology Print & eBook bundle options. Terms & conditions.
The Sea of Lost Opportunity - 1st Edition - ISBN: 9780444536457, 9780444536464

The Sea of Lost Opportunity, Volume 7

1st Edition

North Sea Oil and Gas, British Industry and the Offshore Supplies Office

Author: Norman J. Smith
Hardcover ISBN: 9780444536457
eBook ISBN: 9780444536464
Imprint: Elsevier
Published Date: 6th May 2011
Page Count: 320
Sales tax will be calculated at check-out Price includes VAT/GST
Price includes VAT/GST

Institutional Subscription

Secure Checkout

Personal information is secured with SSL technology.

Free Shipping

Free global shipping
No minimum order.

Table of Contents

  • Series Editors
  • Dedication
  • List of Tables
  • List of Charts
  • List of Figures
  • Acknowledgements
    • Publisher Summary
  • Preface
    • Publisher Summary
  • Chapter 1. In Europe’s Sick Bay: Britain before North Sea Oil
    • Abstract
    • 1.1 The british balance of payments problem
    • 1.2 Oil and the balance of payments
    • 1.3 British economic and industrial decline
    • 1.4 An insufficient inheritance: the british oilfield supply industry
    • References
  • Chapter 2. The Genesis of the North Sea Oil and Gas Industry
    • Abstract
    • 2.1 The move to the north sea
    • 2.2 The technological ‘state of the art’
    • 2.3 The united kingdom position
    • 2.4 Potential european competitors
    • 2.5 Perceptions of the ukcs hydrocarbon resource base
    • 2.6 The new technical challenges of the north sea
    • References
  • Chapter 3. Motivations and Constraints
    • Abstract
    • 3.1 The exploration and production companies
    • 3.2 The british government
    • 3.3 British industry
    • 3.4 Finance
    • References
  • Chapter 4. Before OSO: Offshore Supplies 1963–1972
    • Abstract
    • 4.1 Oil company attitudes to british suppliers
    • 4.2 Government attitudes to british suppliers
    • 4.3 The imeg report
    • 4.4 An assessment of the period
    • References
  • Chapter 5. OSO’s Formative Years 1973–1980
    • Abstract
    • 5.1 The course of demand
    • 5.2 OSO operations in context
    • 5.3 OSO and the machinery of government
    • 5.4 Some key OSO issues of the period
    • 5.5 The supply industry
    • References
  • Chapter 6. OSO’s Long March into History 1981–1993
    • Abstract
    • 6.1 The course of demand
    • 6.2 OSO operations in context
    • 6.3 Some key OSO issues of the period
    • 6.4 The supply industry
    • References
  • Chapter 7. Assessing OSO
    • Abstract
    • 7.1 Third-party commentary
    • 7.2 One insider@apos;s view
    • 7.3 OSO@apos;s statistics
    • 7.4 A summing-up
    • References
  • Chapter 8. Case Studies and Expert Testimony
    • Abstract
    • 8.1 Market segment case studies
    • 8.2 Corporate case studies
    • 8.3 Expert testimony
    • References
  • Chapter 9. Looking Back on a 30-Year Journey
    • Abstract
    • 9.1 Some propositions
    • 9.2 Some conclusions
    • 9.3 Could it have been otherwise?
    • References
  • Chapter 10. Postscript
    • Abstract
    • 10.1 The UKCS oil and gas industry and its supply sector today
    • 10.2 What of the future?
    • References
  • References
  • Glossary
    • Publisher Summary
    • Glossary
  • Index


This book is a contribution to the history of a vital stage of UK technical and economic development, perhaps the most important since the Second World War. It shows, from an industrial viewpoint, how the British handled the exploitation of their most significant natural resource gain of the 20th century. Notwithstanding the nearly 30 years of government support through the Offshore Supplies Office, the UK has not reaped the full benefit of the North Sea discoveries; this book attempts to explain why. It will assist governments and industries faced with future instances of unforeseen, specialist and large-scale new demand to manage their reactions more effectively. It also throws light on how governments can pursue strategic industrial objectives while leaving market mechanisms to function with minimal interference, something some administrations – perhaps even the British – may wish to do now or in the future.

Key Features

  • Covers the entire period from the first well offshore Britain until the dismantling of the specific British industrial policy measures for offshore supplies
  • Based in large measure upon archives not previously accessed and the private testimony/papers of participants
  • 'Drills down' to the level of individual company decisions through case study and other material
  • The only properly researched description of how the world’s first major local content initiative developed


Public sector policy makers, business strategists, academics in fields of economics/industrial history, energy economics and business.


No. of pages:
© Elsevier 2011
6th May 2011
Hardcover ISBN:
eBook ISBN:


"Meticulously researched, the author draws on extensive reference list, of both published and unpublished sources, and includes testimonies from key participants within the industry in order to drill down to the level of individual company decisions…this book represents an important contribution in the quest to uncover the complex and opaque relationships that existed during the time period under consideration."--Scottish Business and Industrial History, page 106-107
"This is an impressive work…extremely well researched book, using not only published and archived sources from government, oil industry, and the business community, but also his own working knowledge…This book should be essential reading for anyone concerned with the UK’s energy problems or questions of industrial policy. It provides much insight into the complex and every present interplay of business interests and political policy making."--Oriel College Record, 2012, page 76
"absolutely gripping – a real tour de force" Sir Derek Morris, Provost of Oriel College, Oxford and former Chairman of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission
"Turning to the Sea of Lost Opportunity, this book is highly relevant to the Britain, of today…deeply stressed and seemingly unable to pull itself out of what has become an horrendous economic mire ...... a must-read for anyone who is hungry to learn about the industry that grew to become our greatest success story in a very long time."
--The Press and Journal (Aberdeen)
"Smith explains why 25 years of government support through the OSO did not produce greater benefit for the UK. He seeks to show how governments and industries might more effectively manage new demands and ‘pursue strategic industrial objectives while leaving market mechanisms to function with minimal interference’. These objectives have application to Australia, not least in our equally open attitude to foreign investment, with mining, agriculture and real estate all in the public eye at present. Smith's suggestions as to how Britain could have been done better are no comfort to past governments, but may, well prepare those to come for new challenges."--
Federal Gallery (Australia)
"[T]his is no less than the most important book involving the underwater industry that it has been my pleasure to have reviewed….There is so much wisdom woven into the fabric of this momentous book that its importance simply cannot be overstated.  It is richly endowed with analytical tables, charts, and figures and makes compulsive reading."
--Underwater Contractor International
"Smith provides an excellent conclusion that looks at the current UK energy scene and addresses the diverse industrial implications and impacts on future energy policy. This is an outstanding exposition of administration from 1963- 1993. Free-thinking technologists, politicians and energy economists should learn from the past and the current situation in order to produce sensible energy policies for the future. Clearly, this is a book to digest with an eye on strategic development, in terms of sustainable supplies and the environmental challenge."
--Materials World Magazine, 04 Dec 2011
"Detailed historical analysis of why the UK North Sea oil industry failed to establish a globally competitive offshore service and supply industry over thirty years."
--Oxford Today

Ratings and Reviews

About the Author

Norman J. Smith

Norman Smith holds degrees from Oxford University (M.A.), the City University (M. Phil.) and Aberdeen University (Ph.D.). He has also participated in development programmes at Harvard and INSEAD/CEDEP. He is a Fellow of the Energy Institute and of the Society of Business Economists. His career began in engineering manufacture where he first became involved with the offshore oil and gas industry. After a spell in merchant banking, he was seconded to the Department of Energy. On his return to the private sector, he co-founded and managed an energy consulting company, Smith Rea Energy Associates Ltd (SREA) , and served as director of eight private companies in the oil and gas industry, becoming chairman of three. After retirement, he researched and authored this extensive study of the British supply chain supporting exploration and production activities in the North Sea: The Sea of Lost Opportunity: North Sea Oil and Gas, British Industry and the Offshore Supplies Office. He felt it was important that the story of this extraordinary episode in British economic and technological history should be chronicled by somebody who had been closely involved in it and that he was well qualified to undertake the task.

Though now formally retired, he continues to write and would always consider a speaking engagement or even a tantalisingly interesting piece of advisory work. His website is

Affiliations and Expertise

Ex-Director General Director UK Department of Energy's Offshore Supplies Office