PD Ports Ltd
The search for oil and gas in the North Sea, like exploration in the rest of the world, has been able to expand due to continual developments in the available technology. Although volatile weather conditions in the North Sea have made drilling particularly hazardous, discovery and production continued to grow for many years.
The oil production history of the UK is not, however, linear. A production peak in 1985 was followed by scaling back of investment as a result of the oil price crash of 1986. This led to the postponement of several new field developments and the Piper Alpha oilrig explosion in 1988 exacerbated this situation.
Renewed investment during the early 1990s and rein-statement of postponed projects, combined with a number of large new field developments (Nelson, Miller and Bruce in the North Sea and Foinaven and Schiehallion on the Atlantic margin to name but a few), resulted in a second production peak in 1999.
Offshore oil production in that year was 407×106 m³ (2559 million barrels), but had declined to 231×106 m³ (1452 million barrels) by 2007. This was the largest decrease of any other oil exporting nation in the world, and led to Britain becoming a net importer of crude for the first time in decades.
But many UK businesses, not least the ports, are still heavily involved in the oil and gas sector. PD Ports, with its main presence in north-east England, is a prime example.
The 354km Norpipe pipeline from Ekofisk in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea landfalls at Teesside. Operated by Conoco Phillips and its partners, it was established in the 1970s along with a large site at Seal Sands, near Middlesbrough, where the Teesside Oil Terminal has been established on land leased from PD Ports.
The terminal is a crude oil reception, processing, storage and trans-shipment installation and also fractionates natural gas liquids into ethane, propane and butane. Operations comprise both processing and tanker-loading facilities covering the 307 acre site at Seal Sands. Crude oil and natural gas liquids from ConocoPhillips’ J-Block and Greater Ekofisk Area fields are delivered to Teesside.
The oil is exported from six jetties at Seal Sands to refineries around the UK and Europe. This has made Conoco Phillips Teesport’s largest single customer (in terms of tonnage) almost since it began operations.
Although it has been estimated that the British and Norwegian sections hold most of the remainder of the large oil reserves in the North Sea, PD Ports is embarking on a strategy of targeting the renewable energy sector as well.
It is one of the major initiators of the Chain Reaction project to bring to Teesside a wide range of companies involved in the renewable energy sector. It says that because of the oil and other related energy and engineering industries based in Teesside over the last 30 or so years, the area has the ideal skills, infrastructure and heritage to become a UK centre of excellence for the renewable energy sector. Crucially, PD Ports also has a deep sea port at Hartlepool, a facility which is critical to the huge-scale engineering required for off-shore wind developments.