Get oil the facts

Much is made by the SNP of the £1.5 trillion of oil First Minister Alex Salmond claims is Scotland’s share of the North Sea’s reserves. However, as we are now starting the run-up to the referendum, it is, perhaps, time to put these figures under the microscope?

Basing his assessment of the value of Scotland’s oil reserves on a value of $100 (£61) per barrel, Mr Salmond has ignored a number of crucial factors which fatally undermine his utopian plans for a new, oil-rich Scotland, separate from the rest of the UK.

For example, Shetlanders will, in all likelihood, opt to remain part of the UK and their share of North Sea oil, reckoned to amount to one quarter, will also remain with the UK.

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The second point is that the oil price can fluctuate and I well remember the unemployed oil rigs that dotted the coast all the way from the Forth to Aberdeenshire in the early-to-mid 1980s, when the oil price was well short of $30, let alone $100.

The future price of oil will be affected by demand and the US is now fairly self-reliant thanks to fracking, which may well affect future prices per barrel. That affects the viability of wells, especially where it is hard to extract.

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If it costs more to extract than you can sell it for, it stays in the ground.

Finally and most tellingly, extracting as little as 30 per cent of an oil field’s reservoir is regarded as being a real success, which means that the actual share of even £1.5 trillion of oil (minus one quarter, of course) is only likely to amount to 30 per cent at best, spread over 30 years.

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Andrew HN Gray

Craiglea Drive

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Edinburgh