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Wicks urges operators to maximise North Sea resources - Role of Subsea Firms Key to Boosting Output -

Press and Journal 4th June 2008

04 June 2008

Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks ramped up the UK Government’s pressure on the North Sea oil industry to step up output offshore.

Mr Wicks, addressing a Subsea UK reception in the Commons last night, said estimates put remaining reserves at 25million barrels.

He added: “It is essential we continue to maximise our natural resources.”

Mr Wicks urged industry bosses to do more to attract female talent following an address from Brinker Technology’s Klaire Evans underlining a huge skill shortage in danger of limiting growth.

His speech followed Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s agreement with North Sea oil industry chiefs last week to increase production by 70,000 barrels of oil per day to help counter the energy crisis.

Mr Wicks said extraction would get more difficult and challenging and more exciting, pointing to the possibilities west of Shetland.

He said Britain has become recognised as the centre of expertise in subsea engineering, now employing 40,000 people across the UK and enjoying a phenomenal 25% growth rate, and moving to exploit a global market.

He looked to the industry playing a part in the future carbon capture industry, pumping carbon extracted from fuel into declining oil fields offshore to increase production. He said: “I intend to pursue this vigorously.”

He said he was confident the current upturn in activity would be sustained for some time to come, describing the 193 applications in the most recent licensing round, the highest number since 1974, as demonstrating strong confidence in the potential offshore, which he hoped would lead to many new discoveries.

Mr Wicks added that the subsea industry was one of our big economic and technical success stories with the potential to grow much further in the future.

Earlier, Aberdeen North Labour MP Frank Doran said there had been phenomenal growth in the subsea industry, with a cluster of firms at Westhill still growing.

He urged companies to use their expertise to help develop renewable electricity generation offshore.

Commenting on Mr Wicks’s appeal, West Aberdeenshire Liberal Democrat MP Sir Robert Smith complained at the lack of concrete proposals from the minister to boost production, but he welcomed recognition that there was a lot more life left in the North Sea in which companies based at Westhill, near Aberdeen, would play a crucial role.