The first simple oil tanker began working in the Caspian
Sea in 1878. Soon after the first well to tap oil in a reservoir
directly beneath the sea was drilled from a wharf in California, but it
was not until 1925 when the first offshore field (as defined here) was
developed in Azerbaijan followed in 1937 by small shallow developments
off Texas and Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico.
The earliest mobile offshore drilling rig did not start
operating until 1954. Thus production from beneath water began in the
19th Century, and production from marine platforms began in the 1930s,
but offshore oil did not start to have an impact on the global energy
market until the 1960s when the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico and
the Persian Gulf could be seriously developed using technology that was
a precursor to the technology we use today.
In the 1970s
offshore oil output rose rapidly as many countries across the world
began to explore and produce in deeper and deeper waters, especially
those bordering the North Sea and the South China Sea. Production
continued to rise through the 1980s and 1990s, despite declines in
discovery rates, reaching a plateau in 1998. New technology and higher
oil prices have just about kept output flat but permanent decline is
expected after 2015 as the world’s easily accessible shallow waters have
production, which steadily grew from the US Gulf of Mexico, the North
Sea and the South China Sea in particular after the mid-1970s, has many
more years of growth potential. Stranded gas reserves, already
discovered in many countries far from obvious markets, will
progressively come onstream using new technologies in the LNG industry
to kick-start major developments.
NB: Shallow water oil production is shown
here without Natural Gas Liquids production as these are not specific to
water depths - with processing occurring away from the field.