Aberdeen’s future as a centre of the oil and gas industry in years to come will hinge on a long-term approach to skills and knowledge, a conference in Edinburgh heard today.
David Doig, chief executive of industry training body Opito, warned the north-east faced global competition for skills from a limited talent pool.
John Pearson, managing director, natural resources Europe and West Africa, at engineering and project-management company Amec said high-value services and intellectual capital would help anchor the industry in the area in the future.
They were among speakers who raised the skills issue at the Oil and Gas and Scotland’s Future conference, hosted by the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI).
It was attended by about 160 people, including many bosses of North Sea oil and gas firms and energy service companies.
They were meeting 40 years after a seminal conference on the industry, also held by SCDI, in Aviemore.
Much of the debate yesterday was around how the North Sea oil and gas industry, with at least 40 years to run, needed to raise its profile and tackle challenges including skills shortages, enhanced oil recovery and improved access to infrastructure and capital.
Mr Doig said: “Expertise and experience from the north-east are revered across the world but we cannot rest on our laurels.
“Global competition is growing – they (other countries) are hungry and after the same prize we are after.
“The problem is exacerbated by a commodity-driven market, which introduces cost inflation.”
He added: “A sustainable supply of skilled people is critical to the economic prosperity and competitiveness of Scotland.
“Government must clearly set out a skills strategy policy and priorities, but the industry must not expect government to do it all.”
Mr Pearson said: “We must start building now if it (Aberdeen) is going to have the position it has now in 40 years.
“We have had a great start but we need to be seen as having the best international feedstock for the oil and gas sector.
“We can make the place a centre of the world supply chain based on high added-value services.”
To do this the industry needed to sell itself more, Mr Pearson said and that sentiment was reinforced by other speakers.
Trevor Garlick, BP’s North Sea regional director, said exploration alone would not be enough to slow down production in the UK North Sea.
Enhanced oil recovery, better reservoir imagery and keeping facilities functioning were important as were skills, the supply chain, access to infrastructure and the tax regime, added Mr Garlick.
The message that the industry needed a higher profile was also heard the previous evening at a pre-conference dinner, where energy minister Charles Hendry spoke.
Mr Hendry said: “It would have been impossible for those meeting at Aviemore to understand how important this industry would be.
“But we have got to get a clearer understanding of this industry. We need to work with it to get the message across. Collectively, we have much to do.”
His comments followed a meeting of the Pilot UK Government/industry group which looked at issues around enhanced oil recovery, access to capital and access to infrastructure.