Adipec 2017: Brexit will make Middle East trade vital for north-east firms, Burness Paull says

Neil Smith, Partner at Burness Paull
Neil Smith, Partner at Burness Paull

As activity in the North Sea shows positive signs of recovery, and confidence returns to the global market, the dynamic of Adipec 2017 already looks to be more upbeat than the same time last year.

Generally we’ve watched Adipec from afar but this year, as an extension of our international strategy, we are heading out to Abu Dhabi for the event. The North Sea has always been a prime exporter of skill and talent to the region and many north-east companies have found great success in setting up entities in the Middle East to support MENA region activities.

We predict that this is a trend that will continue, and that the business and trade relationships in the Middle East will become even more important as the ongoing Brexit negotiations result in the companies that have traditionally worked in Europe, look to other markets for opportunities.

Skills (including legal skills) learned in the harsh extraction environment of the North Sea travel well and, as the world has adjusted to the lower oil price with new exploration and production projects progressing, those talents are in high demand. What also comes with that is a more tech-driven sector. IP and ownership rights are important issues when developing relationships internationally, and combined with the need for operators and the supply chain to work more collaboratively, the law becomes a very important catalyst in driving projects forward.

Continuing the theme of technology, Adipec also brings together leading minds on cyber security. The increasing threat on the industrial sector is something that the HSE in the UK has recognised and  subsequently provided guidance. But just as technology advances, so does the level of cyber crime – it is predicted that the Middle East the cyber security market is expected to grow from US$11.38 billion in 2017 to more than US$22 billion in the next five years.

And while protecting our energy is the main topic on the security agenda, supply and demand will be important areas for discussion too. Estimates suggest that energy demand will increase by as much as 35% by 2040. As a result, natural gas will become the largest contributor which will certainly have an impact on future strategy, infrastructure, supply chain and everything in between.