After 10 years of delays since oil was discovered off the Falkland islands, oil companies are planning to start drilling within the next 12 months.

The move follows the conclusion of lengthy, but successful, tests by geologists and significant cash injections by two major oil companies which plan to bring rigs to the islands by as early as autumn of this year.

The press is already full of stories of how the good times are coming, and how “preparations are under way in the South Atlantic to ensure that the islands can cope with sudden wealth” and “the successful extraction of oil could bring billions of pounds to the 3,000 islanders, in a cash bonanza similar to that enjoyed by Gulf states after the development of oil fields there.

The Falklands’ government will receive 26 per cent of the profits from companies ­drilling for oil, as well as nine per cent royalties on every barrel sold. It is estimated that the area might hold 60 billion barrels of oil – equivalent to the North Sea’s estimated original reserves – all within the Falklands’ “economic zone”, which stretches 200 miles from its coastline.

Dr Phil Richards, from the British Geological Survey, which has been advising the Falklands’ government, sounded a note of caution, however. “There’s no way of knowing how much oil is down there until drilling starts,” he said. “It may be a total success or a total failure, or it could be somewhere in between.”

So reality does not match the hype…. ever heard that one before…