New technology, higher oil prices and a renewed sense of urgency due to expected rising demand after the recession have all fed the new oil rush that has triggered a glut of discoveries.
Warnings from peak oil theorists may have encouraged many countries and companies to redouble their efforts, which could lead to the tipping point on oil supplies being put back.
Exploration efforts have been made easier by strong oil prices which reached $147 a barrel in the summer of last year, and although they have dropped back to around $70, this is still high by historic standards.
Iran has announced a truly huge discovery of 8.8bn barrels in recent days, but many of the strikes have been in emerging new areas such as Uganda and western Greenland.
The Arctic is already being greedily eyed up by an oil industry that might have seen the credit crunch nearly wipe out its bankers, but has merely dented the coffers of high—rolling firms such as BP, Shell and ExxonMobil. But it is technological advances — as much as money — that have allowed these companies to survey prospects more accurately and drill in the deepest of waters at all sorts of extreme angles.
The British side of the North Sea was the original testing ground for many new techniques. Britain’s continental shelf is one of the few to have really seen any new significant discoveries.