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This is the very first commercial hydrocarbon discovery in the North Sea, drilled in 1965 by British Petroleum (BP). The rig is the Sea Gem and the discovery is the West Sole Field in the United Kingdom sector. This was actually an old barge refitted with ten legs to drill in about 140 feet of water. The well clearly was in test at the time the photo was taken as gas was being flared over the crown.

Tragically, on 27 December 1965, when the rig was released and in the process of being jacked down to be floated to a new location, several legs collapsed, broke in two, actually, partially sinking the vessel and killing 13 crewmen aboard, injuring five others. Almost all died from hypothermia and frigid water.

West Sole Field has produced over 2 TCF of natural gas and ultimately led to the discovery of numerous other nearby gas fields in the British sector of the Southern North Sea.

The Sea Gem

This is an old BP film, mostly about the Sea Quest and further development of West Sole Gas Field, after the Sea Gem accident, but actually quite interesting and worth 16 minutes from a busy day. Its a reminder, if you will, of what the oil and natural gas industry was like long before the onslaught of mass manufacturing shale wells, nonsense about EBITDA and relying heavily on Wall Street for existence.

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