Oil experts voice ‘cautious optimism’ for future of North Sea industry

Oil experts today voiced “cautious optimism” for the future of the North-east industry as they looked back on the highs and lows of 2017.

After a tough few years for workers and companies, the situation seems to be more positive as businesses continue to invest in the North Sea, despite the downturn.

Paul de Leeuw, director of Robert Gordon University’s Oil and Gas Institute, said he was hopeful the worst effects of the downturn were in the past.

He said: “No doubt 2017 has been another challenging year for the sector and the impact has been felt far and wide.

“With the oil price and production efficiency up and costs down significantly in 2017, there is now a cautious optimism in the industry that the worst of the recent downturn may well be behind us.

“Although it may take some time for the ‘feel-good’ factor to return, 2018 may well be the year of the ‘feel a bit better’ factor.”

Companies continue to invest in the area, with the sector seeing an increase in activity, he said.

Professor de Leeuw added: “With many of the oil and gas producers returning to profit again and with over $8 billion (£5.8bn) in merger and acquisition activity in the North Sea in 2017, there is likely to be some renewed appetite for investment in the sector.

“Early indications are that the industry is forecast to spend more than £15bn on oil and gas-related activities in 2018.

“For an industry, which has been around for more than 50 years, this is clearly something to cheer about.”

Colette Cohen, CEO of the Aberdeen-based Oil and Gas Technology Centre, said she hoped, with new technologies, the oil and gas industry would be able to advance the sector.

She said: “We can harness the full potential of the digital revolution to create an oil and gas industry that’s fit for the 21st Century.

“This means driving productivity and reducing emissions to create an oil and gas sector that is part of a balanced, low-carbon energy mix for decades to come.”