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No guarantee of new decommissioning jobs at Dundee port

An aerial view of Dundee
Dundee

There is nothing definite in business, just opportunities and possibilities.

The suggestion by Port Manager David Webster that North Sea decommissioning work will “definitely” come to Dundee – and with it upwards of 1,500 jobs – is nothing more than that at this stage.

Decommissioning of aged North Sea oil and gas assets does represent a major opportunity for Dundee – but it is definitely not a definite.

Forth Ports are spending an eight-figure sum putting the physical infrastructure in place at Prince Charles Wharf to allow Dundee to handle major infrastructure, whether it is coming onshore or going offshore.

But that does not guarantee success.

Companies operating on the UK Continental Shelf have long sailed right past the Firth of Tay and, without persuasion and education, I see no reason why that decades old practice won’t continue.

Dundee-based MSP Jenny Marra has spent the past four years banging the drum and she deserves credit for bringing together a round-table discussion this week on decommissioning opportunities at the Port.

Sat at that table alongside Mr Webster and our local development representatives were senior representatives of the industry and of big business.

Sylvia Buchan of regulator OGA was there, Trisha O’Reilly of industry body Oil & Gas UK was there, Andrew Sneddon, director of marine operations at AECOM was there and Duncan Manning, Shell’s business opportunity manager for the giant Brent decommissioning project was there.

That’s a great first step and the soundbites that came out of the room were all hugely positive.

But no deal is done as yet.

What is needed is a structured proposal that properly showcases Dundee’s advantages and abilities – the deep water facilities, skills base, low cost of doing business and great lifestyle – to the industry at large.

That’s when the hard work begins – the knocking of doors, the networking, the ringing of telephones, the sending of emails – all the things that make a business dream become a reality .

It also makes sense for a version of that document to be included within the Tay Cities Deal document as the region looks to leverage private investment from new government funding.

The combination of new facilities and a front-foot attitude has paid dividends elsewhere and it can do so for Dundee and the wider region.

But what I would urge is we are not blinkered in our approach to developing new business through the city’s Port.

The opportunity to develop Dundee as a base for offshore wind remains and is one that has potential to provide work for decades to come.

It should be the top priority, followed closely by operational and maintenance work, decommissioning and, perhaps surprisingly given the price environment and relative maturity of the North Sea basin, the bringing forward of new oil and gas.

I have previously cautioned about a rush to decommissioning and that’s because many tapped reserves are being abandoned before they are dry.

They’ve become uneconomic for the purposes of conventional oil and gas exploration but there is an industry growing up to target those resources using innovative drilling technologies.

That should also be encouraged and allowed to prosper on the banks of the Tay.

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