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Warm tributes to gas boss John Bains

The former petrophysicist helped uncover massive reserves of energy when he was working in Morecambe Bay in 1972

John Bains

Tributes have been paid to a Birmingham graduate who warmed millions of the nation’s homes – after he discovered one of Britain’s largest gas fields.

John Bains, who has died at the age of 86, was convinced he had found a massive reserve of energy when he was working in Morecambe Bay in 1972.

He was employed by Gulf Oil at the time as a petrophysicist, but his company discounted his report before relinquishing its rights to the area, which were taken up by British Gas.

Mr Bains persevered with his beliefs, and the new company didn’t waste much time before drilling an exploration well in 1974.

Huge reserves of natural gas were discovered and production started nine years later. At its peak the field met 12 per cent of Britain’s gas supply and even today Morecambe Bay accounts for eight per cent of the nation’s supply, producing 500 million cubic feet of gas every day.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Bains described his amazing discovery as “just part of my job,” but his employers eventually showed their gratitude. When Centrica took over production in 2002, it was named the Bains Field.

This is highly unusual, with most sites around the UK given the names of birds, rivers, planets or towns.

The humans honoured in this way are a very select band, including Coventry-born Frank Whittle, the inventor of the jet engine, and Charles Babbage, the mathematician considered the “father of the computer”.

Working for British Gas, Mr Bains was also involved in the discovery of oil in the mid 1970s at Wytch Farm in Dorset, said to be one of Europe’s largest onshore oilfields, as well as a number of oil and gas fields in the North Sea.

Centrica Energy’s Managing Director Mark Hanafin said: “We would like to pay tribute to John Bains and celebrate his contribution to UK gas exploration and production. John’s determination and expertise uncovered one of the UK’s most important gas fields which has kept millions of homes warm ever since.

“John was hugely respected in his field and revered at Centrica Energy as the father of the Morecambe Bay development.”

In his published paper ‘Undiscovery of wells in the UK Continental Shelf’, industry expert Graham Dean said: “Without the work of John Bains and others the UK oil and gas industry would be very different and the UK would be poorer.”

Mr Bains was born in Nottingham in 1927 the third of six children of a master builder and a former governess.

His elder brother and sister died young, and as his father spent much of the Second World War away from home working on coastal defences, John stepped up, helping to look after his mother and younger siblings and later said this early responsibility helped him throughout his life.

Although initially he wanted to join the family building firm, he was sent away to Egypt on national service, before he could complete a degree in Architecture at Nottingham University. It was during his time in the army, that he got into trouble when returning home for his confirmation service. He missed a train to his barracks, and was accused of being absent without leave. He was taken to his confirmation by two ‘redcap’ army military policemen, who marched him up Southwell Cathedral’s aisle.

On being demobbed Mr Bains decided to take a degree in Geology at Birmingham University, where he met his wife, Sheila Neale. Having graduated, he was offered a job with BP Engineering in Kuwait. He then worked for 10 years as a log analyst for Texaco Oil in Trinidad, returning to Britain in 1966.

For the remainder of his career Bains worked in the exploration division of British Gas, where he eventually rose to the position of chief petrophysicist. He retired in 1992.

Mr Bains loved photography, gardening, woodwork, genealogy, the countryside, and reading Old English.

Mr Bains’s marriage was dissolved, and he is survived by his three sons and one daughter.

 

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