Almost 150 oil rigs in UK waters could be scrapped within the next 10 years, according to industry analysts.
Douglas Westwood, which carries out market research and consultancy work for the energy industry worldwide, said it anticipated that “146 platforms will be removed from the UK during 2019-2026”.
The North Sea has been hit hard by plummeting oil prices, with the industry body Oil and Gas UK estimating 65,000 jobs have been lost in the sector since 2014.
But Douglas Westwood said that decommissioning could provide an opportunity for the specialist firms involved in the work.
Later this month it will publish its decommissioning market forecast for the North Sea – covering Denmark, Germany, Norway and the UK – over the period 2016 to 2040.
Ahead of that a paper on its website predicted that the “UK will dominate decommissioning expenditure”.
This is down to the “high number of ageing platforms in the UK, which have an average age of over 20 years and are uneconomic at current commodity prices, as a result of high maintenance costs and the expensive production techniques required for mature fields”.
Douglas Westwood said: “The oil price collapse has been bad news for nearly every company involved in the industry, but one group that could actually benefit from it are specialist decommissioning companies.
“For these companies there is an opportunity to be part of removing the huge tonnage of infrastructure that exists in the North Sea. With oil prices forecast to remain low, life extension work that has kept many North Sea platforms producing long past their design life no longer makes commercial sense.”
Scottish Green Party co-convener Patrick Harvie said: “This analysis shows that we have no to time to waste if we want our workers and our economy to benefit from the drive to decommission North Sea rigs. Whether our governments like it or not, the future of North Sea oil is more uncertain than ever, and thousands of people will lose their livelihoods unless we secure work in areas like decommissioning and renewables.
“Governments both in Westminster and here in Scotland like to pretend that by throwing subsidies into the North Sea, we can make the oil industry last forever. But while they sit around and hope for the best, valuable opportunities to take a leading position in the decommissioning sector are floating by.
“It would irresponsible, foolish and extremely short-sighted to let other countries seize the opportunities of decommissioning. The Scottish Government must urgently accelerate its efforts if we’re going to secure jobs in the sector and make sure that Scotland is ready to bid for contracts.”