January 25 2016

Offshore decommissioning work could be lost abroad

Offshore oil and gas work worth more than £50 billion could be lost to foreign competitors, as the Government’s failure to build an effective strategy for decommissioning in the North Sea jeopardises energy jobs in the UK.

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Nearly 300 platforms are awaiting decommission and a further 4,000 wells still need to be plugged and abandoned, providing the potential to sustain countless positions for British workers in the oil and gas sector.

Trade union GMB have warned the Government not to delay further, at the risk of losing tens of thousands of consequential supply chain jobs to workforces overseas.

Representing the UK’s employees in energy industries, GMB has told Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, MP Amber Rudd, that suspending work any longer could have a catastrophic impact on jobs and investment in the sector.

Brian Strutton, GMB National Secretary for Energy, said: “Thousands of UK jobs could depend on this work – there is no logical case for delaying decisions.

“By all means extend the working lives of oil and gas platforms where possible but don’t just kick the decommissioning can down the road.”

GMB’s Acting Regional Secretary in Scotland, Gary Smith, adds: “Decommissioning is lacking a clear strategy and we are concerned that it will be done ad hoc. The Government lacks awareness of the opportunities.

“If it’s left up to the market, this work will either go to the countries that are cheapest, like the scrapping of the ships does, and we’ll have the health and safety and environmental concerns that go with that. Or it will go to countries like Norway that already have a strategy for decommissioning.”

What does it mean for the energy workforce?

Concerns around dropping oil prices have taken priority in recent months and distracted from the need to install offshore decommission work in the North Sea. An emphasis on the importance of carbon capture and storage (CCS) could also be responsible, with MPs taking their time to reflect on the latest Energy Bill and causing critics to argue that CCS opportunities must not come at the expense of other key areas. 

A slow response, however, is putting 60,000 jobs in the sector at risk currently and the UK could miss out on future contracts, estimated to value between £30 billion and £50 billion. In order to fulfil all key points stated in the Energy Bill successfully, and safeguard skilled workers in the sector, the government-led Oil and Gas Authority must act now to put decommissioning provisions in place and stop competitors abroad reaping these large contracts.

Image Credit: andy muir (

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