O&G industry body Decom North Sea acts to try to ease predicted skills shortages

Thursday, August 18, 2011
DNS Chief Executive Brian Nixon

Decom North Sea (DNS), the offshore oil & gas decommissioning forum, has commissioned research into the future labour and skills requirements for the growing decommissioning sector to try to alleviate predicted skills shortages in future.


With more than £1billion a year of decommissioning expenditure forecast for the UK North Sea by 2015 and only 7% of projects completed to date, DNS will make its findings available to training bodies to help ensure appropriately skilled people are available. To establish the extent of the potential skills gap, DNS endorsed a PHD student at Robert Gordon University to research ‘Potential Skills Shortages in the UKCS Decommissioning Phase’.  

Overall, the findings indicate a significant shortage of skilled and professional personnel over the next 20 years, if action is not taken immediately. The project’s findings also show a 32% shortage of skilled onsite personnel while results for offsite professional personnel differ greatly, indicating an initial 14% shortage rapidly tapering off over five years.

In addition, the study finds that skills shortages are not being caused by an aging oil & gas industry workforce but by the increase in numbers of skilled people needed and greater competition between different industries, such as power infrastructure and nuclear, for trained personnel.   

Recommendations include:

•    Additional data being provided on the schedule of UKCS (UK Continental Shelf) decommissioning
•    Continued investment in attracting school leavers into careers in engineering
•    Encouraging the oil & gas industry to sponsor students and apprentices
•    Examining tax breaks for skilled and professional engineering personnel

A skills steering group established by DNS has also commissioned in-depth research among its 140+ members into the skills and competencies they will require to enable decommissioning activity to take place.

Findings will be shared with the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) and OPITO, the Oil & Gas Academy, to assist them in considering what may be needed in the design of decommissioning technician training modules and accreditation standards etc.

DNS chief executive Brian Nixon said: “There has been huge concern regarding the potential engineering and technology skills shortages in the offshore energy sector and Decom North Sea is regularly asked if this will also impact offshore decommissioning. The outlook for the UK oil and gas decommissioning supply chain is promising. Over the coming decade, industry forecasts suggest that the level of activity in the North Sea will lead to capacity restraints in all areas. Many North Sea supply chain companies could therefore find themselves with a choice of business opportunities, ranging from support for ongoing oil & gas development and production, to the growing programme of decommissioning, and emerging offshore wind developments.


“This in turn has created serious and exciting career opportunities for those with the right skills. We are working with our members to develop an assessment of the quality and quantity of skills that will be needed, from technicians to engineers and project managers, and look at that against the bigger picture of how the needs of decommissioning will fit with other offshore work and the renewables sector as these industries grow.”  
DNS has grown since its inception in 2010, to have members drawn from operators, major contractors, service specialists and technology developers. It was set up to tackle the main areas of weakness, which are inhibiting decommissioning supply-chain capability.
 

Earlier this year in-depth consultation was carried out with its board, members, partner organisations and industry generally to identify priorities for DNS action and set a course of strategic direction towards addressing these requirements in the years ahead. Among the list of initiatives, a strong emphasis was put on the need to research and understand capabilities and skills gaps in the decommissioning market relating to people, processes and technologies, and then put in place mechanisms to address the issues and opportunities. As part of its remit to support and encourage the supply chain, DNS is continuing to organise a series of events, seminars and share fairs across the UK to help members benefit from the considerable supply chain opportunities within the decommissioning market in these areas.


Decom North Sea and Oil & Gas UK opened bookings this month (August) for their Offshore Decommissioning Conference 2011, which takes place in Dunblane on 4-6 October and will focus specifically on the role and requirements of the oil and gas industry’s offshore decommissioning supply chain. The conference will be chaired jointly by Mr Nixon and Paul Dymond, Oil & Gas UK’s operations director.
Find out more at: http://www.oilandgasuk.co.uk/events/Offshore_Decommissioning_Conference_2011.cfm

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