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Oil and Gas

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This sector fiche will focus on hydrocarbon exploration and production. Operating and service vessels as well as connection cables and pipelines are excluded from this sector fiche analysis.

Basic facts

  • State of the sector: Mature and in decline
  • More than 80% of the current European oil and Gas production takes place offshore
  • Most of the extraction fields are mature, with declining production and rising costs[1].
  • Presence across sea basins: Predominantly North Sea, minor activity in the Atlantic and East Mediterranean.
  • Land-Sea interaction occurs through the use of pipelines for transfer of product, shipping for supply, maintenance and off-loading.
  • Fixed platforms and pipelines present until decommissioning
  • Lifetime of installations has an optimal design life of 25 years, extended as profitable
  • Interaction with other uses is predominantly the exclusion of shishing from safety zones and some potential for multi-use

Frequently asked questions [25]

Specific FAQs regarding this sector can be found at the bottom of the page. The following questions provide overall information on current spatial needs and anticipated future developments.

What are the present spatial needs of the oil and gas sector?

The oil and gas sector is locked in physically to the specific location where geological processes lead to those materials to be extracted. Thus, the spatial aspect is of the greatest importance for these sectors, as the spatial availability of the resource cannot be altered. At the same time, a re-allocation of the activity would therefore not be possible.

The material transport to ports also follows a linear structure connecting the collection point to the point of delivery (by ship or pipelines), which will follow the most direct route in order to minimize shipping costs. In order to avoid potential spills, during extraction all other uses are to be spatially avoided so that focus remains on a safe exploration.

At the same time, the advent of directional drilling has reduced the amount of surface structures required for hydrocarbon extraction activities, since many wells can be operated from a single platform, and at a distance of several kilometers[2]. Similarly, extended reach drilling can be used to access offshore reserves from onshore facilities, as is undertaken from the German North Sea coast.

Which anticipated future developments of the industry are relevant to MSP?

Domestic production in Europe is set to decline sharply as reservoirs in shallow waters are in decline, existing fields are mature and are not replaced. This will increase the dependence on imported hydrocarbons. However, in some parts of Europe, namely in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, there is unexploited oil and gas potential, with some exploration potential in Cyprus, Greece, Malta, Bulgaria, Romania and Portugal[3].

With technological advancements in drilling and extraction, production is moving to deeper waters[4]. Enhanced oil recovery (EOR), injecting water or other substances to maintain reservoir pressure, is increasingly being utilized to access declining reservoirs.

Technological innovation and improvements in efficiency and cost-reduction may extend the life of some fields that would have otherwise been uneconomic[5]. However, reserves still exist and new technologies are enabling companies to produce hydrocarbons more cost effectively[6].

As the sector ages, decommissioning of oil and gas infrastructure will become increasingly active, with over 200 platforms forecasted for complete or partial removal, nearly 2,500 wells to be plugged and abandoned and 78,000km of pipeline to be decommissioned in the North Sea between 2017 – 2025[7].

Development of renewable energy technologies, particularly offshore wind, and increasing emphasis on emissions reductions and alternative sources of clean energy affect the oil and gas sector, although the use of fossil fuels will continue to dominate energy production for the next decades[8].

Recommendations for MSP processes in support of the sector

  • Engaging with the sector: Despite the fact that spatial requirements for the oil and gas sector are predictable with little expansion of existing activities expected[9], MSP processes should further engage with the sector to ensure their activities, current and future, are  included. The sector may be established with presence of offshore infrastructure, safety and exclusion zones and maintenance/supply vessel activity, and these should be included in the MSP.
  • Managing decommissioning effects: Decommissioning represents the next significant shift for the oil and gas industry as reserves decline and installations come to the end of their life. The spatial implications for MSP from this are minimal in terms of new demand for space, however, it is relevant to consider the potential increased pressure on ports and harbours for decommissioning activities, and the potential for offshore installations which remain in situ to be used for other purposes.

For more information

For more information, please visit the long-version of the sector fiche which includes further detailed information, resources and references.


[1] Ecorys (2012). Blue Growth Study - Scenarios and drivers for Sustainable Growth from the Oceans, Seas and Coasts: Third Interim Report.…

[2] World Ocean Review (2014). WOR 3 Marine Resources –Opportunities and Risks.

[3] Joint Research Centre (JRC) (2015). EU Offshore Authorities Group – Web Portal: Offshore Oil and Gas Production.

[4] World Ocean Review (2014). WOR 3 Marine Resources –Opportunities and Risks.

[5] DNV GL (2016). Technology Outlook 2025 – Energy.

[6] World Ocean Review (2014). WOR 3 Marine Resources –Opportunities and Risks.

[7] Oil and Gas UK (2017). 2017 Decommissioning Insight.

[8] MARIBE (2015). Socio-economic trends and EU policy in offshore economy.

Chapter 6 – Offshore Oil and Gas.

[9] Oil and Gas UK (2016). Economic Report 2016.

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Frequently Asked Questions