Investment is paying off as the North Sea becomes an increasingly attractive prospect for the multi-billion dollar oil and gas industry.
The North Sea has long been a rich hunting ground for the oil and gas industry. While interest waned slightly over recent times, that is set to change. The industry has been invigorated by a combination of long-term investment opportunities and a spate of new exploration licenses.
Michael Fallon, the Energy Minister, is unsurprised by this renewed surge of interest, because “there could be as many as 20 billion barrels of oil still buried deep within the seabed.”
While this is great news for engineers, who will see their services in demand again, a similar situation that has stricken the Canadian oil and gas sector is set to take effect over here. “Many workers in the sector being expected to retire in the next 10–15 years, and the attraction of competing industries such as renewable energy [means that] the industry will encounter a significant loss of experience and expertise that is not easily passed on”, said Morven Spalding, Skills Development Director of OPITO, the skills organisation for the UK oil and gas industry.
Engineering employees will find themselves the subject of fierce competition, as employers fight to get the expertise that is essential to make the most of the prospects beneath the North Sea.
“The oil and gas industry is well aware that to meet future skills needs, it must broaden its appeal beyond the traditional recruitment routes as a means of increasing the pool of skilled workers currently available and the pipeline of future talent coming to the sector.” Spalding continued, reinforcing his prediction for increased oil and gas recruitment in the UK.
Recent government figures have stated that the oil and gas sector in the UK attracted record breaking figures of £14bn of capital investment in 2013. There are a huge variety of projects, such as the eco-friendly Clair Ridge development, which is utilising the latest green technologies to reduce environmental impact and increase efficiency. The project is entering its £4.5bn second phase, in the 220km² site, west of the Shetland Islands. It features dual-fuel power generators on the platforms, which use waste-heat recovery tech, as well as vapour recovery for recycling low-pressure gas.
Alix Thom, employment and skills issues manager for the trade body Oil and Gas UK, said; “The existing infrastructure, most of which is mature, requires modifications to ensure the structural integrity is maintained – and engineers are also in demand to carry out this work.”
The global increase of oil and gas activity globally, particularly from the surge in developing countries exploring energy production, has impacted the market as whole. “If companies are unable to source sufficient engineers for their projects, their plans for developments may be delayed. In some cases, the shortage would prevent some companies from being able to bid for work projects,’ Thom said.
Steps are being taken to address this in the UK, with studies that have produced some mixed results. Spalding said; “While we have seen a number of reports authored over the last two or three years, variations in the findings in this field have caused confusion for industry and training providers over the true scale of the skills needed.”
Sue Adlam-Hill, BP’s Human Resources Vice-President, North Sea and Eastern Hemisphere regions, has commented that BP was currently seeing demand for a number of different engineering disciplines, such as electrical engineers, process engineers, rotating equipment engineers and discipline mechanical engineers.
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