UK gets first flavour of North Sea oil drying up

Nov 12, 2003 01:00 AM

Britain has been given its first alarming glimpse into a future when the North Sea's oil begins to dry up. In September, oil imports exceeded exports for the first time since August 1991. The turnabout from a £ 400 mm surplus to a £ 63 mm deficit helped to widen the trade gap to a record £ 3.9 bn.
The deficit with the rest of the EU, where much of the oil goes, also reached a monthly record of £ 2.2 bn. Over the past three months, the country has been spending 3 % more than it is producing.

September's oil shortfall was a blip, the Office for National Statistics claimed, as important refineries were out of use for maintenance. Crude oil production is estimated to have recovered to 2.17 mm bpd.
However, the UK Offshore Operators Association predicts a bleak trend for oil production in the UK. North Sea oil output peaked at 2.9 mm bpd in 1999, but is expected to be just 1.6 mm bpd in four years' time.

At recent prices, the balance of payments would then be about £ 4 bn a year worse off,eliminating regular monthly oil surpluses. Before North Sea oil and gas, the UK used to run an annual trade deficit of between £ 2 bn and £ 4 bn on fuels.
Recently, there has been a surplus of about £ 6 bn.

Source: Times Online
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