Technology innovation is going to play a critical role in the next chapter of oil and gas recovery from the UK continental shelf (UKCS) and in driving export growth in our UK-based supply chain.
It is encouraging that there is alignment from Government, the regulator and industry on this front, as demonstrated by the launch of the Oil & Gas Authority’s Technology Strategy.
The OGA is rightly seeking to use technology to drive the MER UK strategy and is keen to support the growth of exportable technologies, which will sustain the UK-based oil and gas supply chain for the long term.
It is true that the historic levels of investment in oil and gas research and development in the UK have been low and that Government has not been particularly active in this space.
However, circumstances have aligned to change this in terms of more concerted efforts on behalf of industry and Government to drive the technology agenda against the backdrop of a UK industry significantly changed by the lower oil price environment of recent years.
The OGA has issued a clear statement of strategic direction for technology in the North Sea, which formalizes the work it and the Technology Leadership Board has done to date.
The strategy addresses the changing reality of our industry.
In the early days of the North Sea a small number of oil majors were developing huge fields, and had huge R&D budgets of their own – so close government involvement was not necessary.
Oil & Gas UK now has 65 member companies described as operators and many of the new entrants don’t have R&D budgets and expect the supply chain to develop the new technologies.
Some companies do this but overall R&D spend is significantly less than before, so there is a pressing need for government support (via The OGTC) and direction (this strategy) to ensure we don’t lose out on the opportunity of the latter years of the North Sea.
The strategy has a good balance of objectives in that it addresses maximising the recovery in the North Sea – a short term imperative for UK Plc – and is concerned with supporting supply chain companies to build capability to export more and sustain high value oil and gas jobs beyond North Sea production.
It is now essential for our industry that all involved pull together and ensure that this strategy can be successfully implemented.
Ian Phillips, is the chief executive of the Oil & Gas Innovation Centre (OGIC)