• 50 Years of Black Gold in the Silver City

The book
Written by Jeremy Cresswell

This 280 page book is published to celebrate the achievements of the companies and individuals that have made the North Sea their life since the story opened in 1965.

ABZ and Big Oil book - Celebrating 50 years of Aberdeen and North Sea oil and gas

50 years into the North Sea story and we are privileged, pleased and proud to have played our part in this most enterprising of industries.

This, the third book in the series, is published to celebrate the achievements of the companies and individuals that have made the North Sea their life since the story opened in 1965. Of course, the North Sea turned out to be the starting point for many of these organisations that have gone on to become celebrated for their ingenuity and innovation worldwide.

Published in 2000 our first volume, “Black Gold and the Silver City”, was a reflection on the oil and gas industry and its impact on the north of Scotland, while “Black and Green Gold”, produced in 2010, focused on the future and the role that Aberdeen and northern Scotland might play in the years ahead. At the time of writing, the North Sea and the industry in general is experiencing a malaise never before experienced. A potent mix of falling oil prices, high costs, aging infrastructure and over supply of hydrocarbons is contributing to massive job losses on a global scale and a brutal realisation that a serious overhaul of the industry is long overdue. These issues are explored and discussed in depth within this book by a number of industry-leading individuals that have been generous, gracious and frank in their contributions.

However, there is absolutely no doubt that our part of the world will continue to contribute its expertise to this great global industry. Who could have imagined 50 years ago that a suburb to the west of Aberdeen, yet to be created, would become known as ‘SURF City’ and be recognised as the global centre of excellence for a world some 10,000m below sea level? Current projects the world over are run from our city and there will be many more to follow as new challenges present themselves and are overcome by the critical mass of expertise that is resident in this tenacious region. We are indeed fortunate to have such industry experience supported ably by our two seats of learning and research at the University of Aberdeen and Robert Gordon University.

Considering carbon capture, decommissioning and overcoming challenges we don’t yet know, the future, as they say, will take care of itself. However, it will need a helping hand and when that time comes, Aberdeen and the north east of Scotland will continue to play a leading role.
Enjoy the book; dip into it from time to time to remind yourself how much has been achieved and how much is yet to be accomplished by the industry’s innovators of the future.

Steve Gibb, public relations manager, Balmoral Group, July 2015

Friends of ANCHOR
NB: For the first time we have put a cover price on a book. All monies received from the sale of the book, or donations received, will go directly to Friends of ANCHOR, Balmoral’s in-house charity which supports the cancer and haematology unit at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

  • By Trevor Garlick
    Regional President, BP North Sea

    ABZ and Big Oil - foreword - Trevor Garlick

    I was choosing my sixth-year subjects when BP discovered the giant Forties field in 1970. Its 2.5 billion barrels of recoverable oil reserves turned the North Sea into a globally significant oil and gas region.
    I went onto choose geology, alongside the usual sciences, and was propelled into a life-long career in oil and gas.

  • In the beginning

    ABZ and Big Oil - chapter 1 - the beginning of oil

    A significant number of top business people in Aberdeen today are ‘baby boomers’, ‘children of the Fifties and Sixties’. Their collective memory of the Silver City by the Golden Sands, is much the same as the author’s: grey granite, grey skies, grey sea, grey parents who we probably thought mostly just didn’t get it.

  • Creating the boom

    ABZ and Big Oil - chapter 2 - creating the boom

    Down around Aberdeen’s quaysides, trawler owners were worrying where their futures lay. The potential of making big money out of Big Oil was one line of thought. In fact it was practically the only one as the UK fishing fleet was in decline.

  • Crash and recovery

    ABZ and Big Oil - chapter 3 - crash and recovery

    This was to be the most dramatic ten-year period yet for the North Sea, not that it seemed that way at first.

  • Over the peak

    ABZ and Big Oil - chapter 4 - peak oil

    By 1995, CRINE was arguably at its most intense after two full years of application. With various operators showing how macho they could be in terms of cutting the cost of new North Sea developments, the initiative looked unstoppable, at least for a time.

  • Decade of transition

    ABZ and Big Oil - chapter 5 - decade of transition

    The fifth decade is in many respects the most important in the ABZ and Big Oil story so far. For it is during this period January 2005 through December 2014 that it was finally realised that the UK Continental Shelf could actually last for another 40 or 50 years, given good husbandry, reasonable oil prices and an ample dusting of good luck.

  • Looking to the future

    ABZ and Big Oil - chapter 6 - the future

    As we start Aberdeen’s second half century of engagement with Big Oil, it is clear that the North Sea is in for a hard and rough ride. Whether or not the city will still have a credible oil and gas industry presence come 2065 remains to be seen; after all, it is still extremely hard to see beyond five years – in other words, only one term of government.

  • North Sea conversations

    ABZ and Big Oil - chapter 7 - leading lights

    Potent issues are explored and discussed in depth within this book by a number of industry-leading individuals that have been generous, gracious and frank in their contributions.

View a sample of ABZ and Big Oil

View a sample of the book (PDF)

North Sea conversations

The final section of the book features interviews with individuals that have been part of the Big Oil story since 1965

Alfie Cheyne - ABZ and Big Oil

Alfie Cheyne

'Shire entrepreneur

Douglas Craig - ABZ and Big Oil

Douglas Craig

Ship owner

Tommy Dreelan - ABZ and Big Oil

The Dreelans

A tale of four Irish brothers

Alex Kemp - ABZ and Big Oil

Professor Alex Kemp

Petroleum economist

Bob Keiller - ABZ and Big Oil

Bob Keiller

Taking the scary option

Larry Kinch - ABZ and Big Oil

Larry Kinch

Restless entrepreneur

Gordon McIntosh - ABZ and Big Oil

Gordon McIntosh

The catalyst

Jim Milne - ABZ and Big Oil

Jim Milne

Veteran frontier pusher

Graeme Sword - ABZ and Big Oil

Graeme Sword

More than pumping in money

Colin Welsh - ABZ and Big Oil

Colin Welsh

Deals architect


ABZ and Big Oil was written by Jeremy Cresswell and published by Balmoral Group in September 2015.

Jeremy Cresswell - ABZ and Big Oil

Jeremy Cresswell

Jeremy Cresswell has been an energy journalist/analyst for more than 25 years and is best known as the energy editor at The Press and Journal, which he joined in November 1989.

In addition he has contributed to many business and energy-oriented titles and has co-authored a significant number of upstream oil and gas reports and publications and was a founding director of Aberdeen Offshore Windfarm Ltd.

Cresswell instigated the successful ‘All Energy’ conference series staged in Aberdeen since 2000 and founded the private-public partnership Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group.

He is a visiting professor of Aberdeen Business School – The Robert Gordon University; past honorary research fellow at the School of Geoscience – University of Aberdeen; and a burgess of the City of Aberdeen.

Balmoral Group - ABZ and Big Oil


© Balmoral Group Holdings Ltd 2015. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

ISBN 978-0-9933657-0-6

Project managed and edited by Steve Gibb. Design and artwork by Ewen Milne. Steve is public relations manager at Balmoral Group and Ewen is the company’s multimedia developer/artist.

Balmoral Group

Established in 1980, Balmoral is a diverse group specialising in subsea buoyancy, flotation, insulation, elastomer and renewable energy products, property development, civil/environmental engineering liquid storage and treatment solutions.


I am grateful to everyone that helped make this publication possible. My special thanks go to Trevor Garlick for his stimulating and encouraging Foreword and to those that gave generously of their time, knowledge and archive photographic material.

I would like to express my thanks to Jeremy Cresswell for his assiduous efforts and to Ewen Milne for his creativity and patience. Both made this an extremely enjoyable project to work on and I believe this shines through in the final result.

Finally, my thanks go to Jim Milne, chairman and managing director of Balmoral Group, who made the entire project possible. His understanding of the requirement to document the past 50 years as a historical reference that will also serve to inform future generations is typical of his unflinching entrepreneurial vision and selfless generosity.

Steve Gibb

Photographic acknowledgements

Assembling the wonderful array of images in this book, many of them original publicity shots issued by oil companies such as Britoil, Hamilton, Marathon and Shell and numerous contractors across the decades, has been challenging and delightful in equal measure.

Aberdeen City Council: Norman Adams
Aberdeen Harbour Board
Aberdeen International Airport
ACE Winches
Balmoral Group
Chris Allan
Craig Group
Cresswell Maritime Archive
Gordon McIntosh
Graeme Sword

Guthrie Aerial Photography
Judith Patten Public Relations
Larry Kinch
Oil & Gas Authority
Oil & Gas UK
Ronnie McDonald
Simmons & Co. International
University of Aberdeen
Vik Waters
Wood Group

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