HC Deb 29 July 1975 vol 896 cc450-1W
Mr. McElhone

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what is his most recent estimate of the number of orders for oil and gas production platforms for the United Kingdom sector of the North Sea; and whether he proposes to support the development of further platform fabrication sites with public funds.

Mr. Benn

On current expectations I estimate that some 53 major platforms for installation in the United Kingdom sector of the North Sea will have been ordered by the end of 1980. The range of possibilities is, however, wide, extending from 43 at the lower end to 61 at the upper. I have placed details in the Library.

In addition to the site at Portavadie whose development is being financed by Government the Government are to guarantee under the Offshore Petroleum Development (Scotland) Act the repayment of advances up to a maximum of £11.5 million together with accrued interest made by the Clydesdale Bank Ltd. to Anglo Dutch Offshore Concrete (ANDOC) for the development of a platform fabrication site at Hunterston. The Government will also be taking the site into public ownership. The guarantee will cease to be operative once ANDOC has won an order for the construction of an oil or gas production platform to be built at the site at Hunterston. If ANDOC receives no such order within two years, extendable by three months where a tender is outstanding, the Government will meet its liabilities to the bank and acquire its interests in the site facilities.

The Government do not propose at the present time to finance any further sites. I am satisfied that the United Kingdom now has adequate capacity to provide all the steel and concrete platforms required for oil and gas production on the United Kingdom Continental Shelf. This is of considerable importance to our balance of payments, which is likely to be adversely affected over the next few months by the arrival of a number of offshore production platforms and other equipment from abroad.