Despite a difficult year the energy sector is still a vital organ of our economy. Companies and policymakers have made a considerable effort to reduce production costs and ensure the industry remains a provider of thousands of jobs in the north-east. The Press and Journal Gold Awards marked 50 years of oil and gas activity in the region and outlined an optimistic outlook for the future of an industry that can thrive for 50 more. Mark Lammey reports.
All that glitters in the North Sea oil and gas industry was celebrated at the weekend as the inaugural Press and Journal Gold Awards were held in Aberdeen.
The event, run in association with the paper’s sister website Energy Voice and title sponsor Aberdeen Asset Management, marked a major milestone for the sector – the 50th year of the granite city’s involvement in the development of the North Sea.
Friday’s awards ceremony at the Marcliffe Hotel was also a vote of confidence in the industry’s ability to pull itself out of the current downturn and prosper over the next half-century.
The evening featured a packed mix of entertainment, including the awards themselves, mouth-watering food, a live band, and a keynote speech by the head of the oil and gas industry’s new regulator.
Professor Alex Kemp became the first person to be inducted into the North Sea Hall of Fame and guests were treated to the first public performance of a new piece of music created specially for the occasion by a north-east composer.
Setting the ball rolling at the event, Damian Bates, editor-in-chief of the Press and Journal, said the night was a “true celebration of the past 50 years that oil has been at the heart of Aberdeen and the wider north of Scotland”.
He said: “We are here to recognise the people who have fought for years to draw black gold from deep and treacherous waters, who have driven innovation and change, built businesses and success and helped export our knowledge across the globe.
“Of course we know that times are tough at present, but we also all recognise that the industry can still have a very bright future if action is taken now to tackle a spiralling cost base and provide the basis for a new wave of exploration and extraction.”
In his keynote speech, Andy Samuel, chief executive of the Oil and Gas Authority, took guests back to 1965 – when the average house cost £2,500, a loaf of bread cost 5p, and the first gas discovery was made off the coast of East Anglia, heralding a new era of UK industry.
Reminding guests of some of the highs and lows that punctuated the following 50 years, he called on industry leaders to show the same courageous, pioneering approach the North Sea industry is renowned for in order to reverse its fortunes.
Mr Samuel said: “We must keep celebrating successes, just as we are doing tonight, learn from them and replicate the ingredients.
“We have good work to do with the Press and Journal and others, to share the stories that will help shape the positive future we want.
“By recapturing the imagination, innovation and ingenuity of the early days we can create another successful 50 years that our children and their children can look back on with pride.”
Friday’s ceremony, attended by 250 leading lights of the oil and gas industry, featured a captivating orchestral piece composed by Stonehaven’s Benjamin McMillan, who will take up a place at the renowned New York University Steinhardt film music school later this year.
The work came about after the Press and Journal approached Aberdeen University’s professor Paul Mealor, who in turn put forward Mr McMillan, one of his former students, for the task.
Prof Mealor shot to international stardom in 2011 when one of his compositions was performed at the wedding for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Another of his arrangements, Wherever You Are, performed by the Military Wives Choir, was the Christmas number one later that year.
Setting the tone for the awards ceremony, Mr McMillan’s cinematic composition, titled Celebration of the Waves, captured the spirit of an industry that is striving to overcome its difficulties and play a vital part in the economy of the north-east over the next half century.