The UK oil and gas industry may be gripped by a downturn but a lot of positivity has emerged from the two-day conference organised by trade body Oil & Gas UK (OGUK) in Aberdeen.
Almost 500 delegates attended the “UKCS: Open for Business” themed event and heard about the initiatives underway to restore competitiveness to the North Sea, as well as commitments from UK and Scottish Government Ministers to a sustainable future for the UK Continental Shelf.
Lord Dunlop, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Scotland Office, told delegates that industry did not stand alone and had the commitment, support and engagement of the UK and Scottish Governments and the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA).
The speech by the Minister – who also said he was confident that the sector would “get through these turbulent times” – came the day after Keith Brown MSP Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work and Amber Rudd MP, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change addressed conference and pledged their support.
The challenges and opportunities for industry were discussed at special focus sessions which explored cost and efficiency; asset stewardship; exploration; workforce engagement and skills; carbon capture and storage; late-life and decommissioning; unlocking global markets, technology transfers and supply chain innovation.
Session views included the belief that frontier areas have much to give and that seismic activity should be expanded to help develop prospects. Exploration in the North Sea is still seen as relevant with the need to maximise recovery and get optimum value from existing infrastructure being an urgent priority.
Delegates heard that where oil has been discovered, more could be found and that it could be worth revisiting sites.
They were also told that 80% of the cost of carbon capture and storage is in the capture and that there is 40 years’ experience in storage. And while the technology isn’t new, scale is a challenge.
The cost and efficiency session explored the potential benefits of new commercial models, how financial risk can be shared across the supply chain and why feedback is welcomed from suppliers as an aid to building to build stronger, more strategic partnerships.
Attendees also heard that the OGA is working on an asset stewardship strategy – expanding the concept of asset stewardship to include the full exploration and production life cycle.
The size of a company is no barrier to exports, it’s the quality and delivery of a company’s offering that is important, the unlocking global markets session was told.
Examples given in the supply chain innovation session included technology being used to report problems and speed up maintenance on oil platforms, and of gaming industry technology providing virtual walkthroughs of engineering models.
Addressing workforce morale was another key theme, which recognised too the need for better workforce engagement.
While the trade body itself is apolitical, the conference also provided a platform for key speakers from both sides of the EU Referendum debate to help inform delegates of the issues at stake.
Deirdre Michie, Chief Executive of OGUK, said: “It’s been a hugely valuable couple of days where we have shone a light on areas of our industry where improvements have been made and where we still have work to do.
“It was really important to get industry and all the relevant stakeholders together in the same room talking about our issues and how there is a need for change to continue.
“Much has, and is, being done by companies to be more efficient and we will continue to focus our efforts on ensuring these efficiency improvements are sustainable ones. We also must find ways of bringing the workforce with us because everyone has a part to play in steering this sector through the challenges we face.
“Our conference has delivered plenty of insights on new approaches, new techniques and new mindsets and we need to maintain the momentum. Yes, we have difficulties, but these must be overcome because are 20 billion barrels of oil and gas still to go after. I believe these last two days have indeed demonstrated that North Sea is very much open for business.”