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At the flick of a switch

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The islands’ natural environment is renowned for being clean, unspoilt and well preserved. In contrast to this, natural resources have been extracted and exploited by industry over the years. This has brought much needed employment and investment to the islands. In Shetland an Oil Fund was set up following negotiations between the oil companies and Shetland Islands Council. This ensured that Shetlanders benefitted financially from having the terminal based there. 

In 1974, Occidental Petroleum started construction of oil terminals at Sullom Voe on Shetland and Flotta on Orkney. These are respectively the largest, and second largest, oil terminals serving the UK North Sea oil fields.  The transformation was instant for these islands. 

Although the Outer Hebrides has not been so directly involved in the oil industry, many people from the islands have been employed in the North Sea on rigs or supply ships. A major fabrication yard was established by Lewis Offshore Ltd at Arnish Point, near Stornoway, in 1974. The yard made steel tubes and modular jackets for drilling rigs in the North Sea. Although work fluctuated and the yard has changed hands several times, it has been a major employer in the area over the last 40 years, often employing between 250 and 500 workers.

Energy Technology

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energy technology

Energy Technology


The Orkney oil terminal is based on the island of Flotta, which lies in Scapa Flow therefore linking their energy and military history.  Officially opened in 1977, the Occidental Group linked Flotta Terminal to the Piper and Claymore Oilfields in the North Sea using 230km of pipeline – this is almost equivalent to the full length of the Outer Hebrides from the Butt of Lewis to Barra Head.

Model of oil rig supply vessel, Forties Shore - 

© Orkney Islands Council. Photo: Rebecca Marr  Click image below to magnify. 

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