There was good news for Shetland’s economy this week from oil giant BP about likely investment in the Clair field off Shetland and the prospect, although it is only a prospect, of Sullom Voe continuing to be the port of choice for Schiehallion oil when a new floating production vessel has been built.
It is interesting to note that even with crude oil prices now down nearer the $100 dollar per barrel mark, the level of investment and exploration activity remains high. It was predictable that the industry would squeal when the chancellor imposed a greater tax burden on the oil firms in his budget earlier this year. But others who leaped to their defence ought to have known better. Oil and gas extraction remains a hugely profitable industry.
Councillor Alastair Cooper is correct to call for greater transparency in dealings between SIC and BP in the run-up to the crucial decision about Schiehallion. He is also right to observe that the port of Sullom Voe must ensure it is competitive. Yet given BP’s long record of cost-cutting at the expense of safety it is absolutely imperative that the council reviews its Sella Ness operations in light of the concerns that have been raised in recent weeks, concerns that the pilot boat and tugmen continue to believe are not being taken seriously despite fresh meetings with management.
Meanwhile, fuel users in the isles who will barely have noticed the slight fall in prices at the pumps this week continue to wait for the promised announcement from Brussels about a fuel duty derogation that will cut 5p off every litre. We are now told a statement will be made next month. It cannot come soon enough.