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Colin Barry Phipps, 1934 - 2009

Dr Colin Phipps will be remembered for many things, but one of his major achievements was as a pioneer of the British independent oil sector.

It is hard to know where to begin to describe a life that was so varied, rich and full. Fundamentally Colin was a geologist, graduating with a first class honours degree from University College London in 1955. He was awarded a Shell scholarship and completed within just two years a PhD on the Silurian of the Malvern Hills.

In 1957 he joined Shell as a geologist where he spent seven years working in the Netherlands, Venezuela and the USA. In 1964 he left Shell and set himself up as a consultant in the UK becoming involved in numerous activities in the early days of North Sea exploration. As if this was not enough to keep him occupied, he became the Member of Parliament for Dudley West in 1974.

In 1979 Colin became Chief Executive of Clyde Petroleum, a company he helped found in 1973. Colin’s interest in politics continued and he became a founder member of the Social Democratic Party in the early 1980s. In 1983 Colin became Chairman of Clyde and was also elected Chairman of Brindex, the association of British independent exploration companies. He retired from Clyde, aged 60, in 1994 but of course Colin had no intention of retiring and he turned his attention to an area which had long fascinated him, the Falkland Islands.

He had visited the Islands on numerous occasions since his first visit in the mid-1970s as a member of a Parliamentary delegation and his oil instincts told him of the hydrocarbon potential offshore. As a result when a Licensing Round was announced Colin, with his customary persuasive flair set up Desire Petroleum which was awarded a number of licences in 1997. Drilling followed in 1998 with encouraging signs of oil and gas but not in commercial quantities. With the international oil industry in the doldrums from 1998 to 2004 most of the exploration companies left the Falklands. Colin however continued to believe passionately in the potential of the area and his determination kept Desire afloat. Unfortunately he did not live to see the fulfillment of his dream of finding commercial hydrocarbons in the Falklands. He will always be regarded as the icon for exploration in the Falklands, inspiring not only Desire, but also other companies to look for oil in the area.

Colin had great influence on many lives, through his professional and personal activities over many years. Many tributes have already been paid to him, from around the world reflecting the great respect in which he was held. Some of the qualities remarked upon and often repeated include: enthusiasm, inspiration, visionary, loyalty.

Colin leaves his family, to whom he was devoted, his wife Ninky who was by his side for over 50 years, his four children and his fourteen grandchildren of whom he was so proud.

Ian Duncan