SCOTLAND’S oil has and continues to make a select lucky few very, very wealthy – from the famous big beasts whose headquarters are targeted by climate protesters, to smaller and more nimble independent firms, we’ve taken a look at some of the companies who’ve made barrel-loads of cash in the North Sea.  

The UK Government body responsible for oil licensing, the North Sea Transition Authority (formerly known as the Oil and Gas Authority) does not provide detail of whether licenses issued to firms for oil and gas exploitation are in Scottish or English waters – so we have had to compare maps to give you a slice of some of the companies working off Scotland’s coast.  

The beneficiaries of oil drilling are many and varied – some of the companies we looked at were headed by Local Hero-style Texas oilmen, while others reported directly to governments who raked in carbon cash from their investments.  

Read more from our McCrone 50th Anniversary special edition here:

The Greens' environment spokesperson Mark Ruskell said: "Scotland's oil boom has been great for the multinational corporations who have exploited those resources and made huge profits from them.

"But it has damaged our environment and locked us into a reckless and outdated fossil fuel-driven energy policy when we need to be making a transition to cleaner, greener energy."

These are just some of the companies which are or have turned a pretty penny on Scotland’s black gold. Without independence, Scotland has had little to no control over how this money has been taxed or spent.  


The firm boasts on its site it knows the North Sea well “having been here from the very start”. BP says it has ambitions of becoming a net-zero company by 2050. In recent years it has sold a number of its assets in the area to companies such as EnQuest and INEOS, the latter of which operates the Grangemouth refinery.  


London-based energy company with operations in the North Sea, Egypt, Israel, Greece and others. Its flagship project is Karish, in Israeli waters and said in 2020 it had reduced the intensity of its carbon emissions by 69% compared with 2019.  


Italian multinational headquartered in Rome. The Italian government has de facto control of the company – around 25% of which is held by the country’s national investment bank which funnels money into businesses and infrastructure in the country.   


London-based firm which bought up US energy giant Chevron’s North Sea interests in 2019 for $2 billion. It is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Israel’s Delek Group, one of the country’s biggest companies.  


This UK firm was founded in 2019 and receives “strong institutional backing” from HitecVision, an investment firm with specific interest in the energy market, including renewables. Neo Energy bought up North Sea sites from Total, Zennor and ExxonMobil to grow its portfolio.  


This private-equity backed firm has offices in London, Aberdeen, Cairo, Hannover and Jakarta among others. It was set up in 2015 and is currently searching for more oil and gas opportunities across the world. 


A joint venture between the Spanish firm Repsol and the Chinese oil giant Sinopec. Repsol, headquartered in Madrid, fought back hard in 2012 when the then-president of Argentina expropriated its assets in the country, eventually settling for a government bond settlement worth $5bn. It has now said it is moving towards decarbonisation, with Bloomberg reporting in 2018 the firm was moving away from exploring new oil and gas projects.  

Meanwhile Sinopec is a subsidiary of the Chinese government-owned petrochemical company. In its 2021 annual report it posted a net profit of ¥85bn (£10bn). Repsol Sinopec owns a number of other companies including Transworld Petroleum and Rigel Petroleum which have also been active in the North Sea. 


One of the world’s biggest energy firms and one of its biggest corporate polluters, Shell recently pulled out of the deeply controversial Cambo project but remain operational in the North Sea. Its investment in the area is managed through a 50/50 joint operation with ExxonMobil. The company employs thousands of people in Aberdeen. 


One of the world’s biggest oil companies TotalEnergies is based in Paris and grew from the ashes of the First World War as the French government sought security in case of another conflict with Germany. It acquired Maersk in 2018, which the company said at the time made it the second-biggest operator in the North Sea producing the equivalent of 160,000 barrels of oil per day.