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Projects: Projects for Investigator
Reference Number ES/S011080/1
Title Fraying ties? Networks, territory and transformation in the UK oil sector
Status Completed
Energy Categories Fossil Fuels: Oil Gas and Coal(Oil and Gas, Other oil and gas) 100%;
Research Types Basic and strategic applied research 100%
Science and Technology Fields ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES (Geography and Environmental Studies) 35%;
SOCIAL SCIENCES (Politics and International Studies) 35%;
SOCIAL SCIENCES (Sociology) 30%;
UKERC Cross Cutting Characterisation Sociological economical and environmental impact of energy (Policy and regulation) 45%;
Sociological economical and environmental impact of energy (Other sociological economical and environmental impact of energy) 45%;
Other (Energy technology information dissemination) 10%;
Principal Investigator Professor G Bridge
No email address given
Durham University
Award Type Standard
Funding Source ESRC
Start Date 01 October 2019
End Date 30 September 2022
Duration 36 months
Total Grant Value £683,912
Industrial Sectors
Region North East
Programme Grants
Investigators Principal Investigator Professor G Bridge , Geography, Durham University (99.997%)
  Other Investigator Dr G Weszkalnys , Anthropology, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) (0.001%)
Professor N De Graaff , Political Science and Public Admin, Free (VU) University of Amsterdam (0.001%)
Mr J Marriott , UNLISTED, Platform London (0.001%)
  Industrial Collaborator Project Contact , Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) (0.000%)
Web Site
Objectives The project has 9 main objectives:1. To undertake the first systematic analysis of the evolution and ongoing transformation of the UK's strategic position within global oil production networks. To generate new knowledge about changing role of UK territorial assets in the production networks of lead firms in the global oil sector, and the organisational forms, institutions, and practices through which these global oil networks are tied to UK territory. To use our findings to foster greater understanding of the trajectories, processes and consequences of transformation in the UK oil sector at a key moment in its evolution. To inform efforts by practitioners (industry, government, civil society) and the policy community to assess the significance of key changes, and their implications for industrial strategy, economic competitiveness and regional development.This overriding objective is supported by a set of 8 further objectives:2. To create an international, interdisciplinary and collaborative research team that brings together established scholars with complementary expertise in the analysis of oil networks; and that harnesses the resources and capacity of a third-sector organisation (Platform) with a 23-year record of research on global oil networks in the UK.3. To develop and implement an innovative methodology that combines leading-edge approaches and methods from economic geography, political science and anthropology in order to examine transformation at three analytical levels: in asset-firm relations, institutions and elite social networks, and political-economic norms and practices.4. To investigate processes of change in the UK oil sector beyond the well-known decline of North Sea oil production, by focussing on the evolution, maintenance and dissolution of ties between global lead firms and five categories of UK territorial asset (natural resources, access to capital, product markets, expertise and diplomatic capacity).5. To contribute to innovation in social science research on global networks and territorial development by supplementing conventional accounts of 'strategic coupling' (which privilege the strategies of firms and states) with attention to the institutions, social networks and practices through which ties to territory are reproduced and maintained.6. To create and disseminate high-quality academic outputs of direct interest to researchers in economic geography, regional development, critical sociology and the political economy of globalisation; and that advance interdisciplinary research on the political and cultural economies of oil.7. To engage research users in the design, implementation and conduct of the research, and to create a set of project outputs - working papers, executive summaries, high quality visualisation (including a 5-minute animation conveying key messages), policy briefs, press releases, and social media feeds - that respond to their needs.8. To create educational resources based on projectfindings for A-level and GCSE students, through partnership with the Royal Geographical Society (with Institute of British Geographers).9. To develop the careers of two PDRAs.
Abstract International oil firms, with production networks spread across the world, have embedded parts of their global operations in the UK for over a century. Some of these global firms produce oil in the UK, while others refine and sell it; some are headquartered in the UK, or seek access to scientific skills or finance for their projects. The diversity and longevity of these different ties between global oil firms and national territory mean assumptions are often made about their stability and permanence, and about the security of the UK's strategic position within the international political economy of oil.The way the UK is 'plugged into' global oil networks is changing, in the context of a global shift in oil demand away from Europe, declining production in the North Sea, and growing action by governments and society to accelerate low carbon transition. International oil firms with deep roots in the UK, such as Shell and BP, are shedding historically significant assets and their UK footprint is shrinking. At the same time, a diverse group of new firms - with neither the range nor depth of ties to the UK as long-established firms - have entered the UK seeking access to resources, finance, product markets and expertise. These new firms insert the UK into the global political economy of oil in new ways, and their growing role is re-working relationships and practices that have tied international oil firms to the UK for decades. The trajectories, processes and consequences of this transformation in the UK oil sector are not well understood.This research investigates the ongoing transformation of the UK's strategic position within global oil networks. It uses social science methods and an innovative research design to analyse transformation across three levels: in asset-firm relations, institutions and elite networks, and political-economic practices and norms. It will generate new knowledge about the changing role of five kinds of 'asset' in the UK (natural resources, access to capital, product markets, expertise and diplomatic capacity) for international oil firms; and about the diversity, depth and durability of ties between these international firms and assets. Research will be undertaken by an international, interdisciplinary team trained in economic geography, political science and anthropology and with shared expertise in analysing oil networks; and in collaboration with a third-sector organisation (Platform) with a 20-year track-record of research on global oil networks in the UK. The research will create outputs for academic researchers in the social sciences, and a range of non-academic audiences associated with the UK oil sector, broadly understood. The project will contribute new knowledge that advances understanding about the 'coupling' processes that connect national and global economies, and develop a new interdisciplinary perspective that social scientists can use to understand and assess this process. Knowledge created by the research will be shared with the international research community by publishing journal articles, presenting findings at international conferences, and writing a book. The project team will work closely with non-academic research users in civil society, industry and government during the research process. They will design outputs that can inform strategic understandings of transformation and working practices, including working papers, visualisations of transformation and animation, policy briefings and executive summaries. The project will also inform general audiences and produce educational materials for A-level teachers and students, in collaboration with the Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers
Publications (none)
Final Report (none)
Added to Database 10/07/19