Jobs, financing and green technology in the US were all topics of hot debate during Energy Voice’s New Energy Opportunities (NEO) event yesterday.
The session honed in on ongoing work in the US market to foster the development and uptake of three main technologies; offshore wind, carbon capture and storage, and hydrogen.
As is the case globally, much of the success of the energy transition hinges on the ability to create new, well-paid jobs, providing avenues for oil and gas workers to remain within the industry.
Oil and gas experts in the US have put a lot of stock in the transition’s ability to bring growth to regions and sectors that that have been stalling in recent years.
Richard Haydock, project director for the EnBW, BP offshore wind projects in the UK Irish Sea, said it is an issue that’s “really important”.
“We need to make sure we do this bit well – we can’t leave people behind. Through the transition there will be some industrial sectors that will tail off and there will be others that pick up. What we want to do as a broader industry is make sure we create the opportunities for people to come with us along the transition and make the change,” he said.
“In the US you have a tremendous pool of very high skilled individuals. Specifically, if we look at the transition in our company there’s a lot of transferrable skills such as subsea, offshore operations and project management.
“What we need to do is look for that specific sectoral knowledge and make sure we give people the opportunity to come across.”
It’s also hoped the prevalence of new energy sources could provide a means to escape from the cyclical, boom and bust nature of hydrocarbons.
Since the 2014 oil downturn, thousands of jobs have been lost in the global oil capital of Houston, mirroring largely what has happened in Aberdeen.
Elizabeth McGinley, a partner at legal firm Bracewell, Energy Voice’s event partner for NEO, said: “Having been in the oil and gas industry for many years, it’s interesting to see work go through cycles. There are times where we are doing a tremendous amount of work in project development and raising capital, followed a few years later by bankruptcies.
“That cycle of ups and downs in oil and gas, particularly at times when it is at a lull, have given investors a real opportunity to asses whether that’s where they want to be long term or whether they want to diversify, particularly into the energy transition.
“We are seeing players with historical expertise moving into the CCS spaces. There are a lot of very similar skillsets that understand the subsurface technology and how to effectively transport gases and liquids.”
On whether oil and gas salaries will translate into new energy spheres, Matt Vining, chief executive of Navigator CO2 Ventures, said: “We do see a significant number of very highly qualified people, who have historically worked in upstream or midstream oil and gas, that are easily transferrable.
“That wage scale and compensation is very competitive and consistent with past practices. It also represents a large opportunity to create more of a long run intrinsic employment associated with infrastructure buildout.”
Looking ahead to the next decade in the US renewables sector, Anders Hangeland, vice president, Equinor Wind US, said: “We hope that our wind farms will be powering millions of homes, the costs will have declined and the ease of development has improved.
“I’d like to think we’ll be at a point where the supply chain is thriving more than it is today, providing well-paid jobs. Thought that, I hope that we will have developed a workforce that is able to feed back into the global industry through innovation.”
Responding to a question from Ed Reed, Energy Voice’s Africa and LNG editor, on where hydrogen will be in 10 years, Dave Edwards, director and advocate for hydrogen energy at Air Liquide, said: “In the future we have grandiose visions of significant numbers of vehicles on the roads, especially around heavy duty and bus applications.
“I think we’re going to see hydrogen move from a local energy discussion to a regional energy discussion, moving to international as the fuel begins to develop its legs.
“But, we still need to focus very much on the short term. Things are growing exponentially and that trajectory is set today. Can we set in place the policies that enable large scale, low carbon hydrogen production to happen.”
On what might happen with the green vs blue hydrogen debate that’s currently raging within the industry, Mr Edwards says “it will have solved itself”.