Offshore documents oil extraction of the Southern North Sea

2022-09-08 – Feature

Oil, Climate, UK

Café Royal Books release the 1988 series by Ian Macdonald that documents commercial oil extraction in the North Sea.

Since 1851, oil extraction for commercial purposes has been a significant component of the economy of Scotland and the North of England. In recent times, the future of oil extraction remains undetermined, despite the fact that there is a lot of conjecture surrounding the climate crisis.

From the 1960s to 2014 it was reported that 42 billion barrels of oil equivalent had been extracted from the North Sea since when production began, and there is still a potential of 24 billion left remaining there, which is equivalent to about 35 years worth of production, the North Sea will remain as an important petroleum reservoir for years to come.

In 1987, Ian Maconald and Len Tabner worked on a photographic series documenting Smith’s dock Shipbuilders. A touring exhibition of selected works travelled to Imperial College London, where it was viewed by executives of the Offshore oil and gas exploration industries. As a consequence both were invited to submit a proposal to document the opening of a new gas field in the Southern North Sea. The subsequent commission offered a wide remit, from working in Tyneside shipyard where a gas platform was being constructed to working offshore witnessing the lifting of that platform onto jackets anchored on the sea bed, to observing life on a three leg jack-up drilling rig at sea. 

This book offers a powerful and lasting documentation of oil extraction. A body of work created 34 years ago, this contemporary edited selection of photographs captures a poignant time in modern industrial history. Macdonald documents the extremes of the oil and gas industries against the harsh backdrop of the North Sea. In recent times, many of the heavy manufacturing processes Macdonald photographed have become obsolete. 

Buy the book from Café Royal Books.

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