While the oil and gas sector has faced a challenging year in 2016; there are signs that the industry is approaching a turning point. North Sea production started to increase again for the first time in over fifteen years, business confidence is beginning to improve, and new fields have come on-stream.
Next year will continue to pose challenges; however, a coordinated response is emerging in terms of improving collaboration, encouraging cooperation and increasing innovation.
The Scottish Government remains committed to supporting the industry and its workforce using our devolved powers. The Energy Jobs Task Force has been successful in bringing together key partners to maximise employment opportunities for those in the industry and also to provide support for the individuals and companies impacted by the downturn.
Some of the highlights from the concerted efforts of the Taskforce include; engaging with around 3,500 individuals via specific job fairs and redundancy support events; helping over 80 modern apprentices find alternative employment; supporting over 1,200 individuals through the Transition Training Fund, engaging over 780 oil and gas supply chain business in areas such as business resilience, leadership and internationalisation.
Our enterprise agencies have also supported innovation and R&D, providing £7 million of funding for 70 oil and gas projects worth an estimated £16 million.
We have also seen a number of welcome changes this year, notably with the signing of the Aberdeen City Region Deal, which sends an unequivocal message that the Scottish Government is committed to boosting the North East economy, and cementing Aberdeen’s reputation as one of the leading cities for business and industry. This multi-million pound deal will support Aberdeen’s position as a global oil and gas hub, and has seen the creation of the Oil and Gas Technology and Centre.
The Scottish Government’s economic development agencies also launched a new Decommissioning Action Plan, which is focused on extending field life and maximising economic recovery, but also outlines how we will support Scotland’s oil and gas sector to take advantage of the estimated £17.6 billion forecast to be spent on decommissioning on the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) between now and 2025.
The North Sea still holds significant potential with up to 20 billion barrels remaining, and we will continue to work with the regulator, the UK Government and industry to take all steps to secure and maximise new investment in the basin during 2017.