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By John Huxley (auth.)

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These developments have extended the onshore oil industry's technical capability to test and produce from oil traps identified by better exploration technology. Equally important, they have changed the economics of looking for oil and reduced the dangers of damaging the environment, accidentally or because of geological constraints. Deviated drilling, for example, first used by British Petroleum in the East Midlands in 1962, provides some flexibility in the choice of drilling sites to take account of alternative land uses.

Indeed, in the middle of the last century, the Bituminous Shale Company, set up to extract oil from shale on the cliffs at Kimmeridge in Dorset, was engaged in an ultimately ruinous lawsuit alleging patent infringement by James Young. 6 The judge hearing the case ruled against BSC, which had a factory at Weymouth, arguing that 34 'the offensively smelling and unmarketabl e oil (produced) from Kimmeridge shales should not be held to be an anticipatio n of Young's patent'. The company appears not to have solved the problem of objectionab le odour in its products (naphtha, paraffin wax, lubricating grease and pitch) due to the high sulphur content of the shale.

In its public relations material, made available to local residents, the oil company Conoco assesses the noise problem thus: 'In the immediate vicinity of the rig there is a background hum except when "making a trip". This occurs when the drilling bit at the end of the drill pipe has to be replaced. • 14 Residents near sites also complain of the 'squeal' from the brake-drum on rigs. On-site noise from 'nodding donkeys' is small. They are usually operated by a small, diesel motor, or in a highly sensitive area off a 15 horsepower electric motor that is virtually silent.

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