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Saint Helena (the British Overseas Territory of Saint Helena) comprises the islands of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha. They are volcanic islands in the southern half of the mid-Atlantic.

The islands were uninhabited when sighted by the Portuguese in the early 14th century. No settlements were established but Saint Helena became a supply port for European ships. The Dutch claimed it in 1633 but in 1658 the English East India Company built a fort and developed plantations.

From 1770 renewed efforts to build the economy led to a period of prosperity and it became a key stopover for ships sailing to and from Asia. Napoleon was imprisoned in exile on Saint Helena in 1815 at the same time as the islands of Ascencion and Tristan da Cunha were annexed to the UK.

 In 1833 Saint Helena became a Crown Colony. Ascension was added as a dependency in 1922, followed by Tristan da Cunha in 1938. These have been mainly used for military purposes, research and communications.

The colony was reclassified a British Dependent Territory in 1981 and a British Overseas Territory in 2002. In 2009 the 3 islands were given equal status. The UK has expanded Saint Helena’s airport to encourage economic development and tourism and reduce dependence on aid.

Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha are all volcanic islands in the South Atlantic Ocean.

Saint Helena has a rugged volcanic terrain. The last volcanic eruptions occurred 7 mm years ago and the highest point is Diana's Peak volcano at 818 m.

Ascension is another volcanic peak just 100 kms west of the present day Mid-Atlantic ridge. Most of it is covered by lava flows and cinder cones. Tristan da Cunha lies above the Tristan hotspot which includes several smaller islets. The main island is mountainous reaching 2,062m on the Queen Mary's Peak volcano.

This geology is unsuitable for oil and gas accumulations and the three islands of the territory have no identified indigenous oil or gas resources, either onshore or offshore, and Globalshift does not expect any production in the future. No oil or gas exploration wells have ever been drilled.


Map and National Flag

West Africa

Saint Helena


Palm trees on a beach

Brief history of the territory (UK)

E and P


Oil and gas summary



Land area (sq kms)

Oil prod (000s b/d)

Gas prod (bcm/yr)

Oil cons (000s b/d)

Gas cons (bcm/yr)



0.004 mm






Executive authority in Saint Helena is vested in the UK monarch and is exercised by the Governor of Saint Helena appointed on the advice of the British government. Defence and Foreign Affairs remain the responsibility of the UK.

There are 15 seats in the unicameral Legislative Council in addition to a Speaker and Deputy Speaker. Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha each have an administrator appointed to represent the Governor.

There is no government department specifically responsible for oil and gas resources.

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