An industry leader has said he is “confident” of securing government backing for a sector deal and a global underwater “hub” in Aberdeen this year.
Stuart Payne, supply chain director at the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) said the industry has spoken with ministers “four times in the last four weeks” on government intervention packages, with the underwater hub “top of the list”.
The industry has been putting forward the case for a multi-million pound subsea engineering centre for years, with support to come in the form of an oil and gas sector deal promised by the Conservative Government in its 2019 election manifesto.
Mr Payne said: “We work closely now with the Secretary of State and ministers to see what we can do to do try and accelerate the development of that sector deal.
“OGUK are heavily involved in that work as well, with the intention that during 2020 there is a proposition hopefully secured.
“I’ve been in this job long enough to never say never but I’m as confident as I’ve ever been that we will be able to secure the necessary support from the UK and Scottish Governments, to hopefully get that as a thing committed to during this year.
“It’s a decision for ministers, obviously, but I’m sincerely hopeful we’ll be able to land that in the near future.”
Speaking during a Subsea UK webinar this week, Mr Payne said the UK’s subsea industry is the “crown jewel” of the country’s oil and gas goods and services, with a 40% global market share.
The centre would help retain that as the sector continues to grow globally outside oil and gas in areas including offshore wind, aquaculture, subsea mining and naval defence engineering.
Mr Payne added that he has worked closely with Subsea UK chief executive Neil Gordon and others on the “hub” proposals for more than two years.
“They are not too busy to do that stuff, actually the reverse.”
Subsea expertise has the potential to be “one of the wealthiest and most influential export markets” in the UK, Mr Payne said, while also supporting the energy transition – a key criteria for the sector deal.
Asked whether the government would be too busy with Covid-19 to consider such a deal right now, Mr Payne said the opposite was true, with the government very politically minded to support powerful exports as they draw up post-Brexit agreements.
“I think it is fair to say we are done selling. What we are now into is trying to find the right alignment, message and timing,
“They are not too busy to do that stuff, actually the reverse. From what I see, the pressure now coming on ministers is how do we get Britain back to work? Pressure I see on Scottish Ministers is how do we ensure things like the just transition happen in a way that don’t harm the Scottish economy?
“Our job is to say this isn’t a distraction in dealing with the pandemic and the price crisis, this is one of your solutions to the impact of those things.”