The petroleum industry in the United Kingdom has a story that begins in the 17th century. Sir William Clavell, who owned land around Kimmeridge, discovered oil shale on his property. He used this natural resource to begin boiling sea water to make salt, then used it for his glass-making business as well.
For more than a century, the petroleum industry was kept at the private level. It wasn’t until 1848, when the Bituminous Shale Company in Dorset, was founded to bring the oil shale from Kimmeridge to the export markets. The shale was transformed into wax, fertilizer, varnish, and numerous other products in Weymouth as well.
Now there are more than 120 onshore oil and gas sites available to the U.K. petroleum industry. There are at least 250 operating wells that are currently producing, reaching a total of up to 25,000 barrels per day.
Important UK Petroleum Industry Statistics
#1. More than 45,000 metric tons of oil production occurred in the United Kingdom in 2016. That represents about 1.1% of the total oil supply that is available in the world today. (Statista)
#2. The daily refinery throughput for the U.K. petroleum industry currently stands at 1.13 million barrels per day. (Statista)
#3. Daily consumption of petroleum in the United Kingdom is about 1.6 million barrels of oil per day. (Statista)
#4. At current production levels, the value of crude oil consumed in the U.K. totals GBP 16.06 billion. That supports or directly provides employment opportunities to over 302,000 people. (Statista)
#5. Oil and gas provide about 75% of the energy supply that is consumed in the U.K. each year. The industry produces about 41 billion cubic meters of natural gas in addition to the petroleum resources. (Statista)
#6. About 53% of the oil supply available in the United Kingdom in 2015 was imported. (Statista)
#7. Through 2025, lower production levels are expected from the U.K. petroleum industry as 1,470 wells, over 153 different projects, are expected to be decommissioned. (Statista)
#8. There are currently 2.5 billion barrels in proven reserves available to the petroleum industry in the United Kingdom. (Statista)
#9. About 50 of the major oil terminals in the United Kingdom are supplied by pipelines. 34% of the oil terminals are supplied from the sea. The remainder is supplied by rail. About 3,000 miles of pipeline are currently used by the industry. (UK Petroleum Industry Association)
#10. The oil refining sector within the industry plays an important role in the growth of the local economy. It currently sources about 85% of the total fuel consumption which occurs. That contributes about GBP 36 billion in fuel duties and value-added taxes each year. (UK Petroleum Industry Association)
#11. About 71% of the crude feedstock which comes from the industry is low-sulphur crude which originates from the North Sea. About 18% of this feedstock comes from the U.K. continental shelf. (UK Petroleum Industry Association)
#12. Norway is the single largest source for oil imports that come through the U.K. petroleum industry, accounting for 53% of total petroleum imports. (UK Petroleum Industry Association)
#13. The number of major oil refineries available in the United Kingdom reached a high of 19 in 1975. Since then, that number has fallen to a total of 6 which are currently operating. (UK Petroleum Industry Association)
#14. With the frequent refinery closures happening in the United Kingdom, the total refining throughput of the industry has dropped from 97 million tons to 60 million tons in 2017. (UK Petroleum Industry Association)
#15. The refineries for the U.K. petroleum industry also use a small amount of the throughput for fuel to support transforming crude oil into usable consumer products. In 2017, this fuel use totaled 5.67% of the overall supply. (UK Petroleum Industry Association)
#16. The middle distillate share of production by the petroleum industry reached a 54% share of refinery production in 2017. That rate is higher than it has ever been before. (UK Petroleum Industry Association)
#17. In Q1 2018, imports were up 13% to reach a record high for imports to the industry. At the same time, there was an 8.1% reduction in exports to make up for shortfalls in refinery production. (Department of Business, Energy, and Industry Strategy)
#18. The U.K. petroleum industry currently ranks 4th in total refining capacity in Europe. The Stanlow refinery in the U.K. provides about 17% of the total refining capacity for the industry. (RAC Foundation)
#19. Refinery emissions have declined by more than 63% in SO2 measurements since 2005, when the baseline readings were taken for the National Emissions Ceiling Directive. Refinery NOX emissions declined about 45% over the same period as well. (UK Petroleum Industry Association)
#20. Since 1990, demand for gasoline from the industry has dropped by more than 50%. At the same time, demand for jet fuel from the industry has risen by almost 80%. (UK Petroleum Industry Association)
#21. Refineries within the U.K. petroleum industry contribute about 2.5% of the carbon emissions that are generated nationwide. (UK Petroleum Industry Association)
#22. Total road fuel sales remained flat for the industry in 2017, rising at an annual rate of 1.4%. From 2007-2014, fuel demands actually dropped in the U.K. by more than 10%. Total diesel demand grew by about 1%. (UK Petroleum Industry Association)
#23. Diesel fuels account for more than 65% of the total road-based fuel sales which occur in the United Kingdom each year. (UK Petroleum Industry Association)
#24. In 2017, there were 16.1 billion liters of gasoline that were sold by the industry. In 1990, the industry reached a peak sales number of 33 billion liters. (UK Petroleum Industry Association)
#25. Just 1.3% of the vehicles that are operating in the United Kingdom are listed as hybrids. Almost 40% of the vehicles on the road operate on diesel fuel. (UK Petroleum Industry Association)
UK Petroleum Industry Trends and Analysis
The U.K. petroleum industry continues to be a generator of economic activity, despite the reductions which have occurred over the last 20+ years. Continued plugging of wells, along with a reduced level of refinement, will continue to see this industry experience declines. In 2016, just 18% of the crude oil used in the U.K. originated domestically.
Refinement will continue to be a core activity for the industry in the coming years. African imports will keep rising in influence for the industry as well. In 2004, just 3% of crude oil imports originated from Africa. In 2017, 14% of total crude imports originated there.
That means this industry is one that is continuing to transform itself, much like it did in its first days in the 17th century. As new demands come through the industry, it seems poised to be able to provide the products and supports that will be required domestically in the United Kingdom.