Why the UK is poised to lead the future of offshore energy

Whilst many of us associate trips to the seaside with ice cream and sandcastles, for me, the sight of open ocean and stretching coastlines means one thing – offshore energy.

Here in the UK, offshore energy is one of our fastest growing sectors. As a country we are still heavily reliant on fossil fuels but advancements in research and development, as well as fluctuating oil prices, means certain aspects of the sector, in particular offshore wind, have become more economically viable.

That’s why many of the big oil and gas companies have been quick to rebrand, aligning themselves as ‘energy’ companies with a broader interest in modern-day energy systems.

As an island country we’re able to take full advantage of opportunities in oil and gas, subsea technology, marine engineering and offshore renewables. The UK generated more new offshore wind energy than any other country in Europe last year and there is a real sense of excitement around the impact offshore energy will have on the economy over the next decade. It’s expected the number of jobs in the offshore wind sector alone will more than double in the next 15 years.

On 14 June many of the leading figures in the offshore energy sector will descend on Sedgefield, County Durham, for the NOF Energy ‘Energy: A Balanced Future Conference and Exhibition’. Now in its eighth year, the event will focus on the importance of securing a balanced energy mix in the UK to meet future demand. It will be a fantastic showcase for the UK offshore energy sector and an opportunity to attract interest from international companies and investors.

I’ll be attending on behalf of Invest North East England and I’m looking forward to flying the flag for the exciting and innovative companies working here in the North East.

I was recently reminded of the potential of the offshore wind sector on a visit to Smulders Projects in Wallsend, an international steel construction company that supports the offshore energy sector.

Standing on the banks of the River Tyne, I was hoisted 50m up into the air and planted on top of one of the bright yellow ‘jackets’, huge foundations for offshore wind turbines that would soon be sailed up to a wind farm off the coast in Scotland. It was fascinating to get so close to these monumental structures and learn more about our region’s capabilities in the sector.

North East England has a worldwide reputation for excellence in oil and gas, subsea technology, marine engineering and offshore renewables. With centuries of maritime and engineering heritage under our belt, we’re now leading technological innovation in the sector thanks to facilities like the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult and the National Centre for Subsea and Offshore Engineering.

It was recently announced that GE Renewable Energy signed a five year research and development agreement with ORE Catapult to pioneer new technology in the offshore wind tech sector here in the North East. The deal will see GE’s most powerful offshore turbine in the world to date undergo advanced tests at the site in Blyth.

As well as leading R&D capabilities, we have exceptional market access to key wind development sites in the North Sea, including Dogger Bank, Hornsea and Firth of Forth. The North East boasts three Ports – Blyth, Sunderland and Tyne – not to mention over 7km of quay next to deep-water meaning we are well placed to support the industry.

The North East is also the leading location in England for the oil and gas sector – boasting a 40% growth since 2012. It’s no surprise we’re home to world-class engineering and manufacturing companies including BEL Valves, GE Oil and Gas, Technip, NOV, IHC Engineering and Tekmar Energy.

In the coming weeks Invest North East England will be launching a new website profiling the strengths of our region’s three rivers and their capacity to serve the offshore industry. For more information about ‘Energy Gateway North East England’, please sign up to our newsletter.

The UK dominates many aspects of offshore energy right now and that looks set to continue. Let’s keep up that momentum by shouting about our strengths and encouraging more businesses to invest in the UK.

Guy Currey

Director, Invest North East England

 

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