The Sea of Lost Opportunity

The Sea of Lost Opportunity

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

1st Edition - April 13, 2011

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  • Author: Norman J. Smith
  • eBook ISBN: 9780444536464
  • Hardcover ISBN: 9780444536457

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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.

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

Product details

  • No. of pages: 320
  • Language: English
  • Copyright: © Elsevier 2011
  • Published: April 13, 2011
  • Imprint: Elsevier
  • eBook ISBN: 9780444536464
  • Hardcover ISBN: 9780444536457

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

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