Reasons to be Cheerful about Offshore Europe

The first week of September will see the international oil and gas industry once again converge on Aberdeen for the Offshore Europe conference and exhibition, the biggest event of its kind this side of the Atlantic. This biennial gathering, which will be held from 3-6 September at its traditional location, the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC), is a great boost for the city and the surrounding area, particularly in economic terms. Aside from the money spent with local companies on providing services for the show itself, the city’s bars, restaurants and other entertainment venues benefit from a massive influx of visitors in what the tourism trade would describe as a  'shoulder' month at the end of the summer.

Offshore Europe, like OTC in Houston, ADIPEC in Abu Dhabi and OSEA in Singapore, also provides a great opportunity for those of us who work within the international energy sector to catch up with old friends. This is my fifth Offshore Europe (my OE2003 mug, courtesy of Offshore Engineer, is still in daily use!) and from my experience it’s an extremely busy week but always an enjoyable one. Of course, when you compare my experience to how long the event has been running I’m still a rookie, for this year marks Offshore Europe’s 40th anniversary.  It’s a remarkable achievement because it says a lot not only about the popularity of the event, but also about the development and sustainability of the oil and gas industry in the North Sea. I wonder how many of those who took part in that first show honestly believed that we would still have an industry to champion 40 years on?

The 40th anniversary is just one of the reasons I’m looking forward to Offshore Europe this year. There is a real optimism in North Sea activity going into this show, and I expect that to be reflected in the stand designs, conversations and announcements at OE2013. Compared to OE2009 which came at the height of the recession, and OE2011 which was still reeling from the aftershock of that difficult time, I expect to see a show of strength from the industry this time round. A look at recent news items gives us ample reason to feel good about the energy industry going into OE2013. Earlier this year, it was estimated that 40,000 to 50,000 new jobs could be created in the UK’s oil and gas industry, while in April it was also claimed that investment in the North Sea would climb to a record £13billion in 2013. In July, Subsea UK announced that the subsea sector alone could increase its output to £11.1billion in 2016 from £8.9bn in 2012 with almost half the respondents to a survey by the trade body expecting to achieve growth of at least 20% in the next three years. Later in the month, a report from accountants Deloitte suggested healthy drilling levels on the back of high activity in the UK Continental Shelf, giving reasons for confidence in the North Sea.

Of course, one well-publicised cloud in the bright sky is the skills shortage being faced by the industry and the headache of how to find enough people to do all this work. But faced with the options of having too much to do or not enough, I know which position I would rather be in. We’ve also seen conflicting estimates from Holyrood and Westminster on predicted oil and gas reserves in the North Sea – an observer might think there was an independence referendum looming. Of course, politicians will battle this out over the next year. The encouraging thing from an industry perspective is that it shows the oil and gas industry is now front-of-mind in government, which has not always been the case.

They say life begins at 40 and, while we all realise that the best years for the region may be behind us, it is clear there is still plenty of life in the North Sea yet, and many reasons to be cheerful.

Let the show commence!