Times are tough for North Sea oil and gas workers, yet reasons to be optimistic remain.
Lower oil prices mean that times are tough for oil and gas professionals whose work depends on the health of the North Sea industry.
This year has seen several companies that operate in the region announce swingeing job losses. As far as the UK sector of the North Sea is concerned, majors such as BP plc, Chevron Corp., ConocoPhillips Co. and Royal Dutch Shell plc have cut jobs in Scotland, while oilfield services firms that have long been established in Aberdeen, such as Schlumberger Ltd., have also announced cutbacks.
The situation in Norway is not much better. In early 2015, Statoil ASA confirmed that it would extend cuts that began in the summer of 2014 to 1,400 positions from its operations worldwide. Two weeks later, oilfield services firm Aker Solutions said it would shed more jobs from its maintenance, modifications and operations division.
"It's a challenging time. We all know that. But I think you have to keep an eye on the long term. And you have to find that balance of dealing with the short term – the pain that's currently being felt and the consequences of that – but also trying to keep that eye to the long term," David Rennie, Scottish Enterprise's international sector head for Oil & Gas, told Rigzone.
And, certainly, there remain plenty of reasons to be optimistic if you are an oil and gas worker who plies his trade in the North Sea. Exploration activity may be severely down in the basin but the industry is determined that several development projects go ahead. For example, BP is pressing on with its Clair Ridge project on the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS). Meanwhile, GDF Suez and Centrica are developing the southern North Sea's Cygnus gas project that is set to support up to 4,800 jobs during its 5-year construction phase. Smaller operators are also involved in developing fields on the UKCS, with independent energy firm Premier Oil plc set to begin development drilling on the Catcher field later this year.
Over in Norway, Statoil is moving ahead with the development of the giant Johan Sverdrup field that is due to come on stream in 2019.
Scottish Enterprise's Rennie points to figures from Oil & Gas UK that show that, even at $50 per barrel, two-thirds of the fields currently producing in the North Sea remain economic.
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