Scottish Mainland Oil and Gas



The reaction the writer usually gets from most people when mainland or onshore Scottish oil and gas is mentioned is, “what onshore Scottish oil and gas?” The Scottish oil and gas scene is dominated, and rightly so, by Scottish North Sea oil and gas and, increasingly by Scottish Atlantic Margin oil and gas. Despite relative scepticism about Scottish onshore oil and gas, Scottish mainland oil and gas has been produced (and is currently being produced). It may not be in the attractive commercial quantities of the Scottish North Sea and the Scottish Atlantic Margin, but onshore Scottish oil and gas is there, right under Scottish feet.

The overall intent of the article is to enlighten Scots of the prospects of onshore Scottish oil and gas reserves, and make them aware of what is happening from the DECC London onshore Scottish oil and gas Licensing point of view. The article has two main aims. One, to establish if there is potential for onshore Scottish oil and gas on mainland Scotland and two, to establish the locations and quantity of any onshore oil and gas on mainland Scotland. Technical jargon will be kept to a minimum, but not where this would affect the integrity of the article. The article will be based on facts, not on hearsay, rumour, conjecture, or guesswork.

To set the scene, so to speak, the article will examine a brief history of Scottish onshore oil and gas, followed by an examination of the DECC London approach to Licensing Scottish onshore oil and gas (yes, incredible as it may seem to some, the DECC has Licensing Rounds for onshore Scottish oil and gas exploration), similar to the Licensing Rounds for the Scottish North Sea and the Scottish Atlantic Margin. When was the last time you read or heard about Licensing exploration for mainland Scottish oil and gas exploration in the Scottish media?

Like the Scottish Atlantic Margin oil and gas exploration activities, mainland Scottish oil and gas exploration activity is carefully tucked away out of sight of the Scottish public domain. The fact that Scotland is literally floating in oil and gas reserves is never mentioned by the Scottish or indeed, the English media. When was the last time you read a front page newspaper leader or heard a news bulletin that the Scottish Atlantic Margin is “The next global hot-spot for oil and gas exploration in the 21st century?” You haven’t, and you won’t. London’s plan is to have the Scots believe that their oil and gas is “declining``, when in fact, the opposite is very much the case. This is not a subjective opinion; it is based on evidence and hard facts.

The point is not whether Scottish mainland oil and gas reserves compare favourably with the Scottish North Sea and the Scottish Atlantic Margin, they do not. The Scottish mainland geology is not conducive to producing the vast reserves of oil and gas found off Scotland’s east and west coasts. Rather, the accumulations of oil and gas, both conventional and unconventional, that lie under the Scottish mainland, in quantities appropriate to the geology of specific Scottish mainland areas, can be developed and utilised by an independent Scotland at a date and time in the future, of Scotland`s choosing.

The Scottish mainland oil and gas reserves are the triple icing“ on the Scottish oil and gas cake (namely, Scottish North Sea, Scottish Atlantic Margin, and Scottish mainland oil and gas), and a “triple whammy“ for the Union. Independence will give Scotland control of these vast oil and gas reserves, and the immense revenues accruing thereof. In light of the evidence, comments on allegedly, “declining“ Scottish oil and gas reserves are not only ill-informed and economically inept and illiterate, but are, at best, just plain malicious and stupid.


The DECCs `The Hydrocarbon Prospectivity of Britain`s Onshore Basins` provides a good historical account of oil exploration in the Midland Valley of Scotland, and the writer gratefully acknowledges this account. The account states that commercial mainland oil exploration in Scotland started with the realisation that Boghead coal was a richer, more reliable and larger source of oil than the various coals the Scotsman, James Young, had been experimenting with at Alfreton Colliery, during the mid- 19th century. Earlier experiments and patents for distilling oil from coal and shale in Scotland by William Murdoch and Archibald Cochrane, in the latter part of the 18th century, had laid a foundation for Young`s enterprise. Young opened a plant to distil the Boghead coal (Torbanite) at Bathgate in 1851.

Upon exhaustion of this source, the industry turned to the less productive oil shales (Dinantian Oil Shale Group), which are more widespread in Scotland. Young produced half a million barrels of oil in 1878 at West Calder, with exploration peaking at 2.1 MILLION BARRELS during the 1st World War. The onshore Scottish oil shale industry was finally killed off by the withdrawal of a UK tax concession for Scottish mainland oil from shale, by the UK Government in 1964. It is estimated that 75 MILLION BARRELS OF OIL had been produced by that point, and that 37 MILLION BARRELS OF RECOVERABLE OIL RESERVES REMAIN TO BE EXTRACTED.

Conventional hydrocarbons were sought during the 1st World War, using American advice and personnel. The D`Arcy Well in East Lothian (1919) discovered oil and gas (300,000 CUBIC FEET PER DAY (cfd) in the southern part of the (later productive) Cousland Anticline. The D`Arcy oil well derrick (1919) was a familiar sight in East Lothian (Cousland and D`Arcy Anticline) in the Midland Valley of Scotland. Anglo-American (later Esso or Exxon) discovered the Midlothian Oilfield, near D`Arcy, and this produced 30,000 BARRELS OF OIL between discovery in 1946 and 1965.


BP (then known as D`Arcy) discovered the Cousland Gas field, which produced 330 MILLION CUBIC FEET OF GAS for 10 years, and the gas was sold to Musselburgh Gasworks. Modern exploration based on Seismic Reflection – Defined Targets, has resulted in many Scottish mainland wells with hydrocarbon shows. Burmah made an oil discovery at Milton of Balgonie in Fife, and Marinex made a gas discovery at Bargeddie, in the Upper Oil Shale Group in 1989.

The DECC publication, `The Unconventional Hydrocarbon Resources of Britain`s Onshore Basins – Shale Gas`, provides the basis for the historical account of shale gas in Scotland. The writer gratefully acknowledges this source. The DECC account offers a geological framework to examine the potential for shale gas exploration in Scotland. DECC state that, since the USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) has recognised a large increase in American natural gas reserves from shale resources, there has been a growing interest in European potential for shale gas.

The Scottish potential is, as yet, untested. Shale has not previously been considered a hydrocarbon reservoir rock in Scotland, but its organic rich shales have been studied as world-class source rocks in which oil and gas matured before migrating into conventional fields. Gas shows are commonly observed while drilling through shale stratigraphy, but they are rarely flow tested (in earlier days these gas flows were seen as more of an inconvenience rather than a possible exploitable asset).

The Scottish shale gas industry is in its infancy, and ahead of more drilling, fracture simulation and testing, there are no reliable indicators of potential productivity. Exploration for shale gas is initially simpler than conventional hydrocarbon exploration, because problems of migration into non-source rock lithologies and the conventional reservoir characteristics are of no importance. Exploration needs to concentrate on identifying good hydrocarbon source rocks, their generative kitchens, areas of high total organic carbon (TOC), and areas of gas window maturity.

There are environmental concerns associated with the technology used for shale gas exploration. An example of this concern was two small earthquakes experienced near Blackpool (magnitudes 2.3 and 1.5). Cuadrilla, the company carrying out shale gas exploration in that area, agreed to a pause in hydraulic fracture operations to allow a geo-mechanical study to be undertaken.


The DECC 14th ONSHORE OIL & GAS LICENSING ROUND will cover the SCOTTISH MIDLANDS and SOUTHERN SCOTLAND, and will include Licences for:-




The northern boundary of the total Scottish area covered by the SEA (DECC Strategic Environmental Assessment) runs on a diagonal approximately from South Cowal in Argyll, including Bute – to Aberdeen. Its southern boundary is parallel to this, starting approximately from Stranraer, and running to Berwick on Tweed.

Before proceeding to address the stated aims of the article, it is useful to mention that the DECC use a different Mapping System for onshore exploration Licences than that used for offshore Licences. The offshore Mapping System uses Quadrants, whereas onshore Licence coordinates are defined using the National Grid (NG) referencing system, which is a Metric Grid on a Transverse Mercator Projection. NG coordinates are expressed as distances measured in metres east and north from the grid origin, which is located west of the Isles of Scilly.

The NG defines a series of 100 km squares, each of which is further sub-divided into 10 km squares. The 100 km squares are identified by two letters, eg SE or TL. The 10 km squares are identified by the letters of the 100 km square within which they lie, plus a number from 00 to 99.

For example, if a diagram showed the SE Block, then square 46 would be referred to as SE46. DECC refers to each 10 km square as a Block. A Licence may cover a whole Block, part of a Block, several Blocks, or part Blocks.


For the purposes of the article, and addressing the main aims of the article, the writer will use the DECC classifications for the 14th Onshore Oil & Gas Licensing Round mentioned previously. Identifying locations for Scottish onshore oil and gas reserves has been somewhat `easier` than establishing the quantities or accumulations of onshore Scottish oil and gas reserves. The DECC classifications will be followed loosely mainly because there is some overlap between the classifications.


According toR. Beveridge, S. Brown, M. Gallagher & J. Merritt in a joint contribution termed `Economic Geology`, the commercial exploitation of oil and natural gas has a long and varied history in Scotland. From 1919 to the present, there has been exploration for, and for a time, limited production of naturally occurring oil and gas from Scottish onshore sedimentary Basins. Notably, more onshore acreage in Scotland is currently under Licence to exploration companies than at any previous time. The onshore Basins in Scotland remain to be fully explored for naturally occurring oil and gas. Only the more obvious anticlinal traps have been tested in the Carboniferous of the Scottish Midland Valley.

Without pre-empting the conclusions of the prospectivity for onshore Scottish oil and gas in the sections that follow, it is the opinion of various professional geologists that the prospects for onshore Scottish oil and gas should not be underestimated. DECC data on onshore oil and gas well discoveries on mainland Scotland since 1983, include the following – 1985, well name, Milton of Balgonie (1), well number LF/25-5, original operator Taylor Woodrow, original Licence PL 253, county Fife, type of well OIL; 1989, Bargeddie (1), LG/05-1, Teredo, EXL117,Strathclyde, GAS; 1983, Airth (1), LF/27-2,Hillfarm Coal, EXL237, Fife, COALBED METHANE.


Dominic Tatum, Deputy Director, Petroleum Geoscience, Heriot Watt University, in a communication with the writer (20/4/14), stated that, “The Midland Valley is known for being the starting place of the modern extractive industry thanks to the West Lothian Oil-shales and James `Paraffin` Young in the 1850s. Today, these would be termed an unconventional resource. Additionally, conventional onshore oil exploration in the UK focused on the region in the early days, with some discoveries outside Edinburgh by D`Arcy (now BP) in about 1920.


Additional unconventional resources are likely to exist. Extensive coal reserves are known which may be suitable for coal bed methane extraction whilst the BGS are soon to commence a review of the Midland Valley in order to assess its shale gas potential. If you include the near shore province (ie the Firths), the Moray Firth is a good example of significant historic and recent HYDROCARBON DISCOVERIES“.


Further evidence is provided by Professor Stuart Haszeldine, OBE., FRSE., Professor of Sedimentary Geology and the world`s first Professor of Carbon Capture Storage, School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh, where he stated to the writer, “There have been small oil-fields under the Midland Valley – at Cousland notably. About a MILLION to 10 MILLION BARRELS at a guess…..also OIL SHOWS in Fife, offshore Forth, Caithness….shale oil – mined as rock in West Lothian… 100 MILLION BARRELS from 1850 to 1960. Shale gas – not known yet – but will at a guess be about 10-25% of what there is under England. Shale oil – deeper under West Lothian, will be the same, maybe 10-50 MILLION BARRELS. Biggest resource is coal under the Forth estuary, under Central Scotland, and under the outer Forth. This is not yet developed, but within 10 years could perhaps be. It requires methods of underground borehole engineering (not mines) and methods of catching the CO2 emitted during combustion. ENOUGH FOR 100-200 YEARS OF SCOTTISH ENERGY USE“.


Helen Lever, Programme Director for Petroleum Geoscience, Petroleum Institute, Heriot Watt University, added, “There has in fact been both conventional and unconventional oil and gas production from the Midland Valley and there are still some accumulations in the ground“.


The first DECC classification will be examined, that is, the potential for conventional onshore oil and gas exploration and production, including shale gas, in Scotland. This may overlap with the third classification, namely, natural gas storage in hydrocarbon reservoirs. The aims of the article will be addressed simultaneously. According to M.Pye & S. Brown in a joint contribution termed `Hydrocarbons``, the main oil shale development in the Lower Carboniferous of Central Scotland, stretches from just east of Linlithgow and Bathgate, to the Pentland Hills.


There is possibly little prospect of commercial exploitation of the Scottish oil shale so long as secure, plentiful supplies of naturally occurring oil are available in the Scottish North Sea and the Scottish Atlantic Margin. The Department of Energy (1988), estimated that an additional 980 MILLION TONNES OF OIL SHALE remained in the Lothian’s. Oil shales also occur in the Mid Jurassic Great Estuarine Group of Skye and Raasay, with a reported yield of between 54 – 77 litres of oil per tonne of shale.


In the DECC Report `The Unconventional Hydrocarbon Resources of Britain’s Onshore Basins`, Fig 2 shows conventional wells drilled (not Coal Bed Methane (CBM) or Mines Gas), in the Midland Valley of Scotland, together with onshore Licences currently held. The whole of the Scottish Midland Valley will possibly be offered for oil and gas exploration Licences in the DECC 14th ONSHORE OIL & GAS EXPLORATION ROUND. One of the conventional wells is located in the FIRTH OF FORTH. In Fig 4 of the Report, the Scottish Midland Valley Basin is shown as a PRINCIPAL ONSHORE HYDROCARBON PROVINCE, WITH SIGNIFICANT OIL AND GAS DISCOVERIES, with the locations of Coal Bed Methane (CBM) and shale gas Licences awarded. Fig 5 shows formations with the best shale gas potential in the Scottish Midland Valley Basin (Namurian- Carboniferous), with boreholes located at Salsburgh and Marshall Meadows. Fig 6 shows four conventional wells in the Scottish Midland Valley Basin, which flowed GAS in prospective shale formations.


There are OIL PETROLEUM SYSTEMS IN THE SCOTTISH MIDLAND VALLEY BASIN TOGETHER WITH (GAS) PETROLEUM SYSTEMS. Fig 9 shows Namurian (Millstone Grit Group) as the PRINCIPAL ONSHORE LITHOSTRATIGRAPHY in the SCOTTISH MIDLAND VALLEY BASIN FOR SHALE GAS prospectivity. The same DECC Report deals with the ORCADIAN BASIN. The Middle Devonian sediments include 180 metres of rich, mature Lacustrine source rocks which accumulated in Lake Orcadie. Various geochemical data suggest that the source rocks have contributed to the fill of the Beatrice Oilfield. Towards the centre of the Orcadian Basin, the Devonian sequence exceeds 4000 metres in thickness. Based on offshore data, this sequence may locally include SIGNIFICANT thicknesses of Lower Devonian Lacustrine shales, with possible CONSIDERABLE SHALE GAS POTENTIAL.


Dart Energy estimated that there are 370 BILLION CUBIC FEET (bcf) of SHALE GAS recoverable from two areas of CENTRAL SCOTLAND. Note that I Gas Energy is buying out Dart to create a new £400 million company to lead the race to exploit SHALE GAS across Europe (which includes Shell, Chevron, Statoil, Halliburton, and Cuadrilla Resources.) The big corporate energy `beasts` are prowling across Central Scotland at this point, at the behest of London. Without independence, the revenues from this significant reserve of mainland Scottish gas (and oil) will go straight to the London Treasury. Scotland will be left (again) with a ravaged landscape (similar to the coal legacy, both underground and open cast; and the UK MoD failures to `clean` the Scottish landscape of MoD radioactive waste pollution), having gained no benefits whatsoever from its mainland oil and gas resources.


An independent Scottish Government should aim to achieve a secure, affordable, and environmentally sustainable energy framework in Scotland to exploit the considerable oil and gas resources of the Scottish Midland Valley.


The source rocks of the early Carboniferous Strathclyde Group, display FREE OIL adjacent to sill intrusions that may have increased their maturity. An interval termed Houston Marls tested 330 MILLION CUBIC FEET PER DAY (mcfd) of GAS in the BP Salsburgh 1A well at about 850 metres down-hole. Oil shales are immature source rocks which have been mined and retorted to release oil, for example, in the Midland Valley of Scotland. Oil shales which lie in the oil window, that is, down dip of the near surface mines, could have the potential for the production of shale oil. The shale oil could be accessed by the sort of techniques used to produce shale gas. There are environmental and geo-mechanical problems which have to be addressed in relation to hydraulic fracking techniques. It is important that Scotland is NOT used as a commercial `guinea pig` for this type of hydraulic fracture operation. In other words, Scotland gets all the risk and none of the benefit, in a pre-independence scenario.


A swathe of land covering the Scottish Central Belt and much of the Borders and Fife, has been identified by UK Ministers for controversial shale gas exploration. UK Energy Minister, Michael Fallon stated, “There could be large amounts of shale gas available in the UK, but we won`t know for sure the scale of this prize unless further exploration takes place. This marks the next step in unlocking the potential in our (the UK) energy mix. It is an exciting prospect which could bring growth, jobs, and energy security”. Three points to note. First, the UK energy mix differs markedly from the Scottish energy mix. For a start, the UK or English energy mix contains nuclear energy as a key element. The Scottish energy mix does not. Scotland is VERY well placed for oil and gas reserves and revenues, and does not have to take immediate risks with fracking.


Given that there appears to be a risk of earthquakes associated with hydraulic fracturing, is it wise pursuing this apparently risky strategy with 200 nuclear weapons stored illegally in the hillside at Coulport and nuclear submarines being lifted by cranes at Faslane? Second, Fallon uses the word “could“, not `will`. What if he is wrong in his assessment? Third, why should Scotland be used as an experimental `guinea pig` test bed by Westminster, again, for what could turn out to be, “Fallon`s Fallacy or Fallon`s Fantasy?” Hydraulic fracturing is at the top of the Westminster energy agenda, but not at the top of the Scottish one.


Will Scots be `forced` into this risky `fracking` scenario by Westminster, just as Trident was forced illegally on Scotland against the wishes of the Scottish people?


Con Gillen is a Chartered Geologist, has worked as an academic with various universities, and with Russian colleagues on the world’s deepest research borehole in the Kola Peninsula, Arctic Russia. He stated that “There could be as much as a BILLION TONNES OF OIL SHALE remaining (under the Scottish mainland) (i.e. the total resource) but the costs of mining, processing, waste disposal and environmental reclamation are probably prohibitive, and the material is unlikely to be extracted“.


The next onshore Scottish natural resource is Coal-bed Methane (CBM). Brown, et al., state that coal-bed methane is natural gas produced in a coal seam during the formation and burial of coal. The coal seam forms both the reservoir and the trap for the gas. The Airth Gas field located near Kincardine in Fife was discovered in 1994. From 1996 it provided commercial production of gas from a carboniferous coal seam. The estimated recoverable reserves originally in place are 541 x 10 to the 60 metres cubed, making it a VERY SIGNIFICANT accumulation when compared to the history of onshore development in Scotland. Airth was the first commercial development of coal-bed methane in the UK.


Professor Paul Bishop, School of Geological & Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow, stated in a communication with the writer (14/4/14) that “There is coal bed methane under mainland Scotland. See and note that this is NOT a gas to be obtained by fracking. Dart are currently aiming to drill for CBM in the Forth Valley“.

I will now look at two prospective onshore Scottish areas for coal-bed methaneAirth and Fife. The data source is the DECC Report `The Unconventional Hydrocarbon Resources of Britain`s Onshore Basins – Coal-bed Methane`. Airth CBM pilot field, EXL237, N588NE, was initiated by the Hillfarm Coal Company in 1993. At the Airth (1) well the Bannockburn seams have high methane contents (8-10 metres cubed/t), and after hydro fracturing, their permeability was 25mD. GAS produced began at 60 MILLION CUBIC FEET PER DAY (mcfd) in January 1994. Coal-bed Methane Ltd took over the Licence by 1996 and drilled Airth (2), (3) and (4) wells (production rates unknown – not released by the company).


Composite Energy took over Coal-bed Methane`s interests in 2004, drilling Airth wells (5) – (11) inclusive by 2007 as horizontal completions (no information was released by Composite Energy to the public domain on the gas content, etc., of these wells). The Airth field is located within the Clackmannan Syncline of the Midland Valley of Scotland. The high gas values found in the Bannockburn seams are in the Limestone Coal Group (Namurian), about 500 metres deeper than the Hirst Coals, which are known to be gassy from explosions in nearby mines. Note that the South Letham Borehole (NCB) nearby, recorded OIL SHOWS in the Limestone Coal Group.

The Fife CBM (EXL240) was appraised by Pentex Energy (1995) based on data from the Airth (1) well and their Milton of Balgonie wells. Pentex estimated gas in place in their Licence to be 647 BILLION CUBIC FEET (bcf), based on the Airth values. Their resource estimate also included gas in place in the OIL SHALE GROUP, Lower Limestone Group and Upper Limestone Group. The Limestone Coal Group has over 60 seams in Milton of Balgonie. The areas with good Coal-bed Methane potential are the NE Stirlingshire Coalfield and the Clackmannan Coalfield (Clackmannan Syncline).


Exploitation of Scottish mainland CBM carries its own environmental risks in the form of radioactive emissions of Radium-226, Radon-222, and other radiotoxic isotopes. Radioactive emissions from CBM development could be up to three times higher than the radioactive contamination emitted from Rosyth UK MoD Naval base (1.7 billion Becquerel’s, compared to 0.6 billion Becquerel’s). The environmental risk associated with developing and extracting Scottish mainland CBM will have to be weighed against the importance of CBM in the Scottish energy mix, and the short and long term effects of the radioactive isotope emissions on the Scottish population.

The Scottish Midland Valley Basin structure consists of early Carboniferous strata which were deposited in a series of sub-Basins, orientated NE-SW. Among the Basin controlling faults are the Pentland, Ochil and Campsie Faults. In the east, the Pentland and Crossgatehall Faults were reactivated as Reverse Faults during the end-Carboniferous Variscan Orogeny. They extend into the offshore Firth of Forth, close to where Conoco drilled well 25/26-1 in 1990. As far as Scottish onshore petroleum systems are concerned, these are to be found in the OIL PRONE source rocks, including the oil shales of the Dinantian Calciferous Sandstone Measures (formerly the Oil Shale Group). The high land-plant content of these oil shales results in a very waxy oil. Gas prone source rocks, including coals, range in age from late Dinantian to Westphallan. Burial and igneous heating have led to an eastern increase in maturity in the Scottish Midland Valley. Deeper boreholes show that beneath thick upper Carboniferous cover, the DINANTIAN SOURCE ROCKS HAVE REACHED THE OIL WINDOW.



In the Midlothian Oilfield, the discovery well, D`Arcy, was completed in 1922 by UK Government drilling, a legacy of the 1st World War. Anglo-American drilled the trap again in 1937, establishing the oil field limits. In the Cousland Gas field, discovered in 1957 by BP, gas was sold to Musselburgh Gasworks until its closure in 1965. In 1961, 49 mmcf of gas was produced.

Five sandstones in the Dinantian contained gas (probably including the Hailes and Craigleith sandstones of the Lower Oil Shale Group, with two producing over 4 mmcfd gas on test). M.Pye and S.Brown state that the D`Arcy # (1) well (1919) found gas in Calciferous measures sandstone at 221 metres depth, which on test, flowed at about 8500 METRES CUBED PER DAY. CRUDE OIL was also found at 552 metres. Exploration and appraisal drilling in the D’Arcy-Cousland Anticline led to commercial GAS PRODUCTION from Cousland.


OIL PRODUCTION was also successful on the D`Arcy structure. Cumulative production of around 30,000 BARRELS of CRUDE OIL was achieved. Exploration wells were also drilled near Linlithgow, Pumpherston, Rosyth, and near Dunfermline. 24 SCOTTISH ONSHORE WELLS were drilled between 1980 and 1987. The DTI (2000) record the following as “SIGNIFICANT DISCOVERIES“ during this period – MILTON OF BALGONIE No (1) WELL, drilled in Fife in 1985, CRUDE OIL DISCOVERY; and BARGEDDIE No (1) WELL, mid Central Scotland, 1989, GAS DISCOVERY. Drilling has targeted for the most part, the Carboniferous of the Scottish Midland Valley. The exception was the Premier Oil Company’s SUTHERLAND No (1) WELL, drilled near Helmsdale on the Moray Firth coast, which targeted Jurassic sandstone, similar to that which forms the oil reservoirs for the Beatrice Oilfield (Block 11/30), lying around 30 km offshore, to the east.

Other Scottish onshore areas and Scottish inshore waters have been the target for oil and gas exploration. These include areas on and around NE Skye, in the Minch NE of Stornoway, in the Sea of the Hebrides SE of Barra, around the N of Mull, and in the Firth of Clyde, S of Arran. All of these areas have, in the past, been Licensed for exploration. Similarly, exploration interest in the recent past has focused on areas around Thurso in the extreme N of Scotland, and around Stranraer. The DTI (2000) records a number of Blocks under Licence onshore Scotland, around Gretna in the south, an area in mid-Central Scotland, and around Methil in Fife.

The Midland Valley of Scotland evidently has a set of favourable geological circumstances (or oil and gas Plays), the most successful of these being the D`Arcy – Cousland Anticline. The Midlothian Carboniferous (oil and gas) Play is still being explored and interest now extends outside the Scottish Midland Valley to other Scottish mainland geological horizons for oil and gas. The West Calder No (1) Well showed traces of oil and gas. Pumpherston No (1) Well discovered gas, which was never produced, and is presumably, still there.

Wells were also drilled at Blackness and Easter Pardovan, between Linlithgow and South Queensferry, and gas was discovered. Exploration wells were drilled in the area of the Rosyth Anticline, Fife. Calais No (1) Well near Dunfermline, found oil shows. Exploration Licences have been issued in the past in the north, between Inverness and Dornoch, with hydrocarbon (oil and gas) Play concepts relying on Intra – Devonian Lacustrine Mudstones as source rocks. The Firth of Clyde oil and gas prospectivity, south of Arran, relies on Late Palaeozoic strata for possible oil and gas reservoirs. The Minch, Skye, Sea of the Hebrides, and Mull, rely on the Mesozoic Succession for oil and gas prospectivity.


DECC (London) stated to the writer that they have, at this point in time (March 2014), not produced updated estimates for Scottish onshore oil and gas reserves, but expect to do so later in 2014. In the DECC 13th Onshore Oil & Gas Round of Licensing, we find that in the Midland Valley of Scotland, Blocks NT26, NT38, NT30 and NT39 (part), are currently under Licence for onshore exploration for oil and gas. In addition, Blocks NS75, NS85, NS88, NS89, NS97, NS98, and NS99, are currently under Licence for onshore exploration for oil and gas. The remainder of the WHOLE of the Midland Valley of Scotland Blocks are under offer in the 13th Onshore Oil & Gas Exploration Round, including the coastal land areas of the Firth of Clyde, Firth of Forth, and Firth of Tay. In the DECC 13th Onshore Round of Oil & Gas Licensing, pertaining to Scotland, we are informed (by the DECC) that Scottish onshore oil and gas exploration Licenses were offered to Reach (PEDL162), consisting of a cluster of four Blocks in Quadrant NS; to Composite (PEDL163), consisting of three Blocks in Quadrant NT; to Composite (PEDL161), consisting of one Block (partially over-lapping a neighbouring Block); and to Hurricane (PEDL160), comprising of six Blocks spread across Quadrants NN and NO. Part of PEDL161 and 163 are located on the Scottish east coast, off the Firth of Forth.

Estimates of Scottish mainland oil and gas reserves vary widely. Previous DECC estimates of Scottish mainland oil and gas reserves were listed as “negligible“, yet the DECC 14th Onshore Oil & Gas Round is offering oil and gas exploration Blocks on large chunks of mainland Scotland; the BGS is carrying out a comprehensive survey of Scottish mainland oil and gas (no doubt at the behest of London); and the DECC is currently working on updated estimates for Scottish mainland oil and gas reserves, which they will publish later in 2014. Are the Scots to believe that all this effort is taking place just for “negligible“ Scottish mainland oil and gas reserves?

Remember the oil majors comments about oil and gas exploration in the Firth of Clyde – that they wouldn’t have invested all that money, time and effort in seismic surveys if they didn’t expect “ something significant” (oil and gas) in the Firth of Clyde. Déjà-vu.

There is no doubt that Scottish onshore oil and gas resources and revenues are a `song still to be sung`. Similar to the Scottish Atlantic Margin there is, according to the DECC, a lack of modern data with which to assess the future prospectivity of the Scottish Midland Valley. This is probably a convenient way of London stating, “We know that there`s a lot of oil and gas in these Scottish locations, but we`ll tell you how much later, much later, when it`s politically convenient to do so“.

If McCrone is anything to go by, that could be 30 years hence, when the vast oil and gas revenues from the Scottish Atlantic Margin and the Scottish mainland, are on the way to the London Treasury. Sub-surface data shows that there are a number of prospects that could be drilled on the margins of the Leven and Midlothian Synclines, including a LARGE structure west of Conoco`s Firth of Forth (1) Well. This structure is perhaps more analogous to the productive Cousland – Anticline, than to the structure drilled by Conoco.

Scottish onshore or mainland oil and gas reserves are NOT A MYTH. They are there, possibly in SIGNIFICANT QUANTITIES, right under Scottish feet (in relative comparative terms, we are not comparing the Scottish mainland oil and gas accumulations with the vast quantities of oil and gas in the Scottish North Sea and the Scottish Atlantic Margin provinces.

At this point, oil and gas estimates are realistic for the Scottish mainland province). The writers prediction is that nothing major will happen with Scottish onshore oil and gas until the oil and gas reserves have been exhausted or at least substantially depleted in the Scottish North Sea and the Scottish Atlantic Margin, and that could take anywhere from between 100-150 years based on a very conservative estimate and extraction rates. Given the vast area of the Scottish Atlantic Margin province, the oil and gas extraction window could last for at least 200 plus years.

That’s a lot of Scottish oil and gas and a lot of Scottish revenues. Given that there is at least 60 plus years of oil and gas remaining in the Scottish North Sea (senior oil industry contacts actually estimate this to be at least 100 years and possibly 200 years at the very most remaining in the Scottish North Sea), that the Foinaven and Schiehallion etc., oil and gas fields in the northern Scottish Atlantic Margin have an extraction life span of at least 50 or 60 years plus, and the fact that around 80% of the Scottish Atlantic Margin remains untapped (media embargo on this at the behest of London), together with the Scottish Firths and Scottish mainland, a cumulative life span extraction estimate for Scottish oil and gas of at least 200 years plus is NOT unrealistic, nor are estimates of total cumulative Scottish oil and gas revenues of around £4 TRILLION over the life cycles of all Scottish oil and gas provinces.


The Scottish estuaries or Firths (classed as onshore by the DECC) and the approaches to them will probably be the exception to the depletion equation, and oil and gas exploration will occur in the Scottish Firths where geological circumstances dictate that it would be productive and profitable to do so. The Moray Firth is a very good example of successful oil and gas exploration and development in a Scottish estuary. Prime candidates to follow the Moray Firth will possibly be the Firth of Forth, Firth of Clyde, and possibly the Solway Firth (all have a history of seismic surveying and/or exploration drilling for oil and gas).





Note: The individuals and organisations mentioned and quoted in this article do not necessarily take any stance on a YES or NO vote in the Scottish Independence Referendum to be held on 18th September, 2014, nor do they necessarily affiliate to any political Party or political viewpoints or policies.


Comments (9)

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  1. Ian Kirkwood says:

    Further scoop material for the Sunday Herald! Well done Bella for sharing this incredible, priceless information with the People of Scotland. Those of us who have now been lucky enough to read these two papers have to share it widely. It would be helpful to have a synopsis document highlighting the resources as well as the fact that all of this info is being kept out of the public domain.

  2. McDuff says:

    Theses articles have staggered me. I knew that their was oil and gas in the Atlantic Margin but not in the quantities suggested, and I certainly was unaware of exploration on land.
    A big thank you to the writer and to Bella, I shall certainly be spreading this info far and wide

  3. Kelvin says:

    This article could not be any more misleading, or biased for that matter. The facts reported are taken widely out of context with respect to the viability of any extraction or even exploration, and are just being used to promote unfounded claims of the British Government’s lies in an attempt to further incite hatred towards the union.

    I am pro-independence but I find that I am being swayed away from such a stance when so many of my fellows are being blatantly offensive and altogether unintelligent with their views on why we should separate. I do not want to be grouped with such a people who seem to be so intolerant and fail to want to understand the situation, only merely attempting to be patriotic whilst appearing to be illiterate brutes on public forums.

    This article is just the epitome of the lies that one of such a nature will flog to convince people who are less well read or care less to believe in the wrong facts. I truly am disappointed by what we have to pretend in order to gain votes for independence, as opposed to relying on the real reasons we should be apart.

    1. Auld Rock says:

      Hi Kelvin,
      In order to help to better inform us perhaps you would elucidate your comments above? Are you saying that this oil/gas does not exist? If yes perhaps you would outline your ‘evidence’ please? Let me assure that they are not ‘lies’ as you suggest or are you saying that what the Irish are finding south of Rockall off the coasts of Counties Donegal, Mayo and Clare are all just ‘Irish’ Mist?

      Finally I ask you, have you read the 1974/75 report on Scotland’s economic prospects by Prof. Gavin McCrone and classified as ‘SECRET’ using WW1 legislation to bury it for 30 years from the people of Scotland? If you haven’t perhaps I could politely suggest that you do and then please reconsider your views?

      Auld Rock

    2. Auld Rock says:

      Hi Kelvin,

      I forgot to add at end of previous ‘REPLY’ that if you wish you can email directly at: [email protected] This way I can also include Bill Mclaughlin in your concerns.

      I also forgot to ask you one other question, “Do you believe that it is wrong to set-out for the people of Scotland the true situation of what has been going on in the Atlantic Margin or would you prefer for all of this come out after ‘bt’ have scared everyone into believing that this huge resource is ‘RUNNING OUT’? It happened with McCrone and we are determined to ensure that it does not happen again. For as sure as night follows day some of the 2,500+ licence blocks put out for tender without any press release last year, will all of a sudden start to bear fruit and Osborne and his City of London cronies will be laughing all the way to the bank. We feel that this time Scotland’s resources will not be squandered in the same way as the first 40 years of the Nth Sea have been.

      Auld Rock

  4. Bay Rok says:

    I have no expertise on whether or not such massive reserves do, or do not, exist. What I do know is that if they were fully exploited by burning them as fuel, there would be massive environmental and social costs, including a rise in sea levels that would flood many cities and even whole countries, far worse storm events, mass migration and death through famine from poorer countries, war, and a whole lot else. The ‘oil’ argument for Independence is silly: Scotland has massive natural resources but fossil fuels are an embarrassment of riches and we should stop crowing about them.

  5. I agree but the deception of the UK government in any case needs to be exposed. If Scotland remains within the Union do you believe this oil will not be exploited? I suppose it comes down to who do you trust more with the Reserves, a government elected solely by Scots or Westminster? Unilaterally winding up the oil and gas industry is going to be a hard sell in any case, but the opportunity is there to invest and become a world leader in wave and tidal power creating new industry and providing a major contribution to weaning the world off fossil fuels.

  6. Alex Wright says:

    A huge big thank you Auld Rock, Bill Mclaughlin, & Bella for these articles. The research and effort to produce this information for the Scottish People is truly admirable.
    I shall share both articles and would urge others to do the same. I am of the same opinion regards the Scottish Government ” keeping Its powder dry,” and am hoping that the revelations regarding these reserves will be announced in a setting that will receive the maximum publicity. As we can’t trust the MSM to report anything positive towards the Yes campaign, may I suggest the forthcoming debate between the First Minister and Alistair Darling would be a suitable occasion to inform the wider public about these huge resources. Regarding environmental concerns, I would rather trust safeguards being set up in Hollyrood, as opposed to a Westminster regime, of whom all are in thrall of big business
    On another point, it is well known that there has been an upsurge in BT, (or whatever they eventually call themselves) activists posting on pro-indy sites, pretending that they are Yes supporters and implying faux outrage against certain articles.
    Once again, thanks.

  7. Bob McGrath says:

    Can we get a list of links and cited references please?

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