Proud to be in oil and gas - call to action

Materials World magazine
24 Sep 2013

So Offshore Europe, the biggest oil and gas exhibition this side of the Atlantic, has just ended its biennial roll through Aberdeen, after enjoying the biggest and most successful event to date. I was lucky enough to spend a couple of days at the show.

This year in particular there was a notable buzz in the air – and not just from the Spitfire flying overhead to publicise one enterprising exhibitor. Offshore Europe has always been much more than just a trade show and this year it was feted by politicians of all shades, CEOs, media commentators and even royalty – Princess Anne being present to promote a Women in Engineering event. With the Scottish Independence referendum now only a year away, there was also some speculation about what that might mean for the sector. 

Most IOM3 members will probably be aware that the UK oil and gas industry is currently the single largest industrial contributor to the UK economy. First and foremost is the much debated tax revenue – in 2012/2013 it amounted to £6.5 billion from direct taxation of the oil and gas operators, not counting the corporation taxes on the service sector that supplies them and the income taxes on those of us who work for them. But much more valuable contributions in the longer term are the innovations in science, technology and engineering, and through skilled job creation. 

It is these qualities that will sustain oil and gas as an important economic contributor long after North Sea oil runs dry. But does the wider UK appreciate this? Do politicians and the general public understand what we contribute to UK plc? From the quality of debate on Scottish Independence, I’m not so sure. All I’ve really heard from either side are widely different claims on the amount of oil reserves remaining and future tax revenue that might accrue from it. The point that regularly seems to be missed is that those reserves will only be produced if it is economic to extract them, and that revenue is only available if there is a profit to be taxed. Both sides would do well to pay heed to what Niels Bohr had to say about it, ‘Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future’. 

Oil and Gas UK, the industry body that represents operators, contractors and service companies working in UK oil and gas, has begun a rather more practical campaign titled Energising the Nation’s Future, which aims to raise awareness and understanding and to make our industry and its contributions more valued. The campaign encourages everyone who works in the industry to know and spread the word about the economic contribution, innovation and the skilled jobs that exist. Participation might be something as simple as registering on the campaign website, or contributing a personal account of why we’re ‘proud to be in oil and gas’. In the autumn, Oil and Gas UK will host a major event entitled Innovation Nation on the importance of scientific, technological, engineering and business innovation to Britain’s economic future, about which I’m sure you’ll hear more. Meanwhile, I’ve registered my support. Will you?  

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