The UK’s oil industry could be entering its final decade of production, according to new research.
A study of output from offshore fields estimates about 10% of the nation’s original recoverable oil and gas remains.
If the predictions are correct, the UK would soon have to import all the oil and gas it needs, scientists have warned.
Academics behind the work are now urging the UK Government to use more renewable energy sources, particularly offshore wind and advanced solar energy technologies.
Professor Roy Thompson from the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, who led the study, said: “The UK urgently needs a bold energy transition plan, instead of trusting to dwindling fossil fuel reserves and possible fracking.
“We must act now and drive the necessary shift to a clean economy with integration between energy systems.
“There needs to be greater emphasis on renewables, energy storage and improved insulation and energy efficiencies.”
Scientists from the University of Edinburgh examined the nation’s likely potential for fracking and carried out a fresh analysis of the country’s oil and gas production.
Analysis of hydrocarbon reserves shows discoveries have consistently lagged behind output since the industry’s peak in the late 1990s.
The research predicts that both oil and gas reserves – standing at 11% and 9% respectively – will run out within 10 years.
Scottish Conservative energy spokesman Alexander Burnett said: “If this turns out to be the case, it will be devastating for the north east economy.
“It’s now more essential than ever that both the Scottish and UK governments work together to maximise what’s left in the North Sea, and assist those who’ve suffered as a result of the downturn.”
The study, published in The Edinburgh Geologist, found that the UK has small potential for fracking.
This was because many possible sites are in densely populated areas, with low quality source rocks and complex geological histories.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: ” The future for renewable energy is bright in Scotland and we have a record on growing the sector of which we are proud.
“Scotland’s offshore oil and gas industry also has a bright future, and, with the right regulatory and fiscal environment, the basin has up to 20 billion barrels of oil equivalent remaining, and this year has seen one of the biggest new discoveries of untapped oil in recent times.
“However it is the UK Government which retains most of the policy responsibility for the industry and which must use those powers to create the appropriate climate to protect jobs and investment.”
Further calls have been made to bring in more investment to the industry.
Deirdre Michie, chief executive of Oil and Gas UK, said: “There are up to 20 billion barrels of oil and gas resources still to be recovered on the UK Continental Shelf, based on production forecasts provided by the Oil and Gas Authority.
“To ensure the remaining potential of the UKCS is realised, we need to keep operating costs low, bring in new investment and maintain a relentless focus on exploration and enhanced recovery.”
Scottish Labour’s economy spokeswoman Jackie Baillie MSP said: “This is a worrying report about our oil and gas sector. It would be deeply regrettable if the predictions in this report come to fruition and we see oil and gas reserves only last another decade.
“We need to make sure we are investing in exploration to maximise new opportunities in oil and gas. However, this also reinforces the need for Scotland to move toward renewable energy, as well, which will provide new jobs and industry, and help preserve the environment too.”
A UK government spokesman said: “We do not recognise these figures.
“Research by the independent Oil and Gas Authority shows that in 2035, North Sea gas will still meet around a quarter of UK demand with oil from the same source meeting around a third.
“The UK Government is committed to ensuring a diverse energy mix and supplies that are reliable, affordable and clean.”