Shell in the North Sea

Shell has been part of the development of the UK’s oil and gas since 1964 when the first exploration licenses were granted. 

When we started exploring in the North Sea it was seen as one of the most technically demanding sites in the world. Even though the waters are relatively shallow, at about 200m, the tides, currents and frequent storms made working there very difficult. 

In response to these challenges, new technologies have been pioneered in the North Sea that are now used elsewhere in the world. These include innovative drilling techniques such as extended reach drilling and the technology that allows us to work in high pressure, high temperature environments. Over the years, this commitment to innovation has enabled us to access more oil and gas than we originally thought possible.

Our first major oil discovery was the Brent Field in 1971 which started producing oil in 1976 and remains in production today, although it is now reaching the end of its life. Our first gas field was the 1966 Leman field in the Southern North Sea.

Find out how we are managing the end of Brent’s productive life

Due to the cost and challenges of finding oil and gas in the North Sea, most fields are developed in joint ventures. Shell produces oil and gas from more than 50 interests in North Sea Fields, 30 North Sea platforms and 2 FPSO’s – one operated and one operated on our behalf and we provide approximately 10% of the UK's total oil and gas production.

Safe operations

Safety is our top priority in all our activities. Shell is focusing on ensuring that we continue to deliver safe, competitive operations in our North Sea portfolio and maximise value from our assets. We continue to look for ways to improve what we do and to share best practice.

Ongoing exploration

We are committed to playing our part in finding the remaining 15-24 billion barrels of oil equivalent estimated still to be in the North Sea (source: Wood Review). The challenge we face is that much of the remaining oil and gas is in smaller fields that are not commercially viable. So we are investing and applying new technology to find and develop those resources economically.  

Also in this section

Processing oil and gas

Shell plays a vital role in powering the UK and keeping people and business moving. Across all of our business activities, we focus on being a safe and sustainable business. Our people often work in demanding roles and extreme conditions so ensuring they go home safely every day is our number one priority. One of the most demanding environments is the North Sea where we have been exploring for and producing oil and gas for more than 50 years.

Boosting oil production

We have been able to develop and apply new technology to fields that has made it possible to recover more precious resources. 

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