Oil was discovered West of Shetland's as long ago as 1977 with the Clair discovery. However the first oil to be placed upon long-term production will not be until 1996 with the BP/Shell development of Foinaven. Developed during those 20 years is a wealth of experience gained by the offshore industry in discovering, appraising and developing oil fields in the UKCS providing the foundation for opening up the new West of Shetland Province.

The continued commitment to explore West of Shetlands, despite a sequence of non-commercial discoveries and dry holes led to the 1992 recognition of Foinaven and subsequently its fast track to development.

The paradox of twenty years from oil discovered to oil produced in a province, against 4 years for Foinaven discovery to market is the central inquiry of this paper.

Fundamental to understanding this paradox are:

the environmental constraints,

the development of new technology,

the awareness of the business prerogatives,

and the new behaviours of all stakeholders.

We take the case history of the Foinaven field development and discuss the requirements to bring this project forward.

Direct hydrocarbon detection seismic technology, novel well techniques and extended well testing provide the basis for volumes and productivity predictions. The employment of facility solutions in harsh metocean conditions and deep waters provide no less of a technological challenge. Understanding fully the business process and the importance of pace in development against the uncertainties that such a pace invokes is paramount. The quality and maturity of the UK offshore industry is an often forgotten component, along with the strides that oil companies and regulatory bodies have made in clearing hurdles for compliance in moving together at pace.

We are left with the challenge of developing, appraising and exploring simultaneously in a new province not knowing the full extent of volume, technology or behavioural change that it will require.

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