With confidence slowly returning, it seems business on the UK Continental Shelf is in better shape than it’s been for some time.
The big picture is that this increase in confidence comes hand in hand with the improving oil price: Brent crude is sitting at around $62 a barrel, and operators are beginning to see the fruits of their labours to improve efficiency, streamline costs and boost productivity.
For us, improved confidence has been evident through increased deal activity in the latter part of the year.
The completion of the huge Chrysaor acquisition was echoed in the supply chain with Harran’s collaboration with OEG Offshore, the sale of North Star Shipping, and the agreed sale of Plexus amongst others.
Our deals team has been busy.
So, what does 2018 have in store?
The new year looks very exciting for us. We’ll be adding to our oil and gas expertise at the start of the year with two new partners to be based in Aberdeen.
And from the wider perspective, there’s much to be done to help our clients with the current priorities, not least the need to collaborate, as well as prepare for the impending General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
In fact, the GDPR makes data protection a boardroom issue like never before.
Through the Maximising Economic Recovery (MER) UK Strategy, collaboration — which has already been credited with realising significant value for the basin — is a statutory obligation for some.
Collaboration is a necessity that businesses need to manage, if not embrace: in essence, this way of working together calls for specific processes and structures to be in place, and we expect to be supporting clients increasingly on this over the coming months.
Collaboration can bring with it too the topic of adequately protecting intellectual property (IP) — particularly, as in the current climate, technology and know-how has arguably never been more important.
Having appropriate confidentiality management and collaboration documentation in place can help deliver (and protect) real shareholder value, as well as demonstrate legal compliance where necessary.
So how does this imperative to collaborate and, potentially, share more information than before fit in with the GDPR, due to come into force next May?
We all need to be increasingly aware of the large amounts of personal data held on computers, memory sticks, in the cloud, or even on paper.
Operators and the supply chain all hold information about employees, clients, contractors and contacts. The era of obtaining, indefinitely retaining and sharing such data without much thought should be past.
The current duties to protect these details already place significant obligations on us all, but the new GDPR regime will add to the demands we have to meet in handling such data.
It also vastly increases the potential penalties if we are in breach.
There are immediate steps to take now towards demonstrating compliance, including auditing data held and reviewing contracts, as well as re-examining policies and procedures, to ensure they are sufficiently robust.
In conclusion then, we find ourselves in a more positive place than 12 months ago with growing opportunities across the oil and gas sector, but important compliance obligations not to be overlooked.