I have not long picked my way through the report, Scottish Offshore Wind: Creating an Industry, commissioned by Scottish Renewables with the Industrial Power Association. It paints four scenarios for Scottish offshore wind – from a vigorous offshore wind industry, supported by a robust supply chain that involves the oil&gas capability, to failure to capitalise on the opportunity, with all that implies.
Indeed, under the best-case scenario, the report talks of creating an offshore wind industry the equal of oil&gas by 2020.
However, looking at the supply-chain-assessment part of the study, the consultants seem to be oblivious to the level of activity ongoing within the oil&gas supply chain – and the diversity of contractors able to do offshore-renewables work.
Surveys – Aberdeen is, arguably, home to the biggest resource in surveys anywhere in the world, with various players such as Fugro already very active in renewables surveys, in addition to their oil&gas work.
Engineering services – there are dozens of engineering houses, ranging from CSL, Altra, Atkins, through to JP Kenny, and so forth. They are world-class and, in many cases, involved in renewables.
Support services – there are hundreds of contractors capable of servicing installations. Just look at the membership list of Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group to gain a flavour of who is interested and/or engaged.
Project management – the most powerful project management in marine and subsea anywhere in the world resides in Scotland – and mostly in Aberdeen.
Logistics – we have a fleet of vessels and logistics practitioners such as Asco capable of whatever logistics are needed pretty much anywhere in the world.
Foundations – what about GE, Neptune and others? The massive oil&gas foundations experience is totally pertinent to offshore wind.
Vessels – there is an ample selection of offshore support-vessel providers, many of which are involved in renewables already. Or try Seabrokers.
Construction, installation and assembly – how can the consultants who wrote this report claim that we don’t have any real capacity?
Service providers for IRM (inspection, repairs and maintenance) – well, if Aberdeen can’t provide that, then we should all go home.
I recall Subsea UK, in a piece of work carried out last year regarding what is needed in terms of construction skills, with many key disciplines missing or glossed over.
Subsea UK identified more than 700 oil&gas service companies capable of providing renewables-related services, and many are gearing up to do so, or already involved.
Some of you might think I’m being hard on Scottish Renewables/IPA, but the consultants concerned should have done a much better job.
And perhaps Scottish Renewables/IPA should have chosen who carried out the research more carefully.
Don’t forget, this report will no doubt be used at Scottish Government level to make decisions that will affect the manner in which the renewables marketplace and its supply chain evolve.
To put it bluntly, there is a danger of ignoramuses screwing up a massive opportunity for a supply chain that is almost ready-made for offshore renewables.
What doesn’t seem to come out of the report is – while one may take a view on how Scotland is positioned (and there is clear divergence in this matter) – where would the developers get the marine and subsea skills, and enough of them, anywhere else.
The simple matter is that Scotland has the lion’s share of engineering and operations capability and we need to make the most of it rather than ignore it and talk it out of the discussion.
Don’t forget, that capability is why I, in the late-1990s oil-price slump, got a number of key people together in Aberdeen to lay the foundations of the now hugely successful All-Energy show – a place where new-generation renewables can meet and do business with the oil&gas supply chain.
Sorry, you guys at Scottish Renewables. I’m not trying to be nasty. But there is a need to start focusing more on how to use what we have to best advantage, and to make those who are capable visible rather than keep churning out the myth that the supply chain is all a big unsolvable problem and that oil&gas isn’t going to participate.
I DON’T very often single out specific individuals in this space, but I want to this time.
They are the late Matt Simmons, who died suddenly last month following a heart attack, and Neil Bruce, who has just been elevated to group chief operating officer at Amec.
First Matt. He and I went back 20 years. I was first introduced to him at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston. He was instantly fascinating: someone to listen to and with whom one could have deep discussions.
Ever since then, to within just a few weeks of his passing, we talked – mostly face to face, but also by e-mail. And it wasn’t always oil&gas. Renewables increasingly came into those conversations, and China was a fascination.
But it was only four or five years back that we discovered our mutual passion for Norse history. I shall miss him greatly.
Turning to Neil Bruce, this son of Aberdeen and its shire is to be warmly congratulated for what he has achieved personally and for his massive contribution to making Amec one of Britain’s finest companies.
Most of the leadership conversations tend to be about entrepreneurs leading the way – people who found and build businesses, perhaps several times over. What Neil has done is devote a considerable chunk of his life to being an intrapreneur – in this case, Amec, where he has quietly demonstrated he has what it takes to be a leader time and again.
Neil is another of those leaders who has made time in his life for conversations – always good ones – inspiring even. I just hope that those who consider candidates for a Queen’s honour have him on their list. He deserves consideration.