The Health and Safety Executive reports that more than 32,000 people currently work in the UK offshore sector, making it one of the biggest and most productive in the world. In fact, the UK is ranked as a global leader in offshore wind, and our waters are home to the largest offshore wind farm currently in operation. This is a sector that is poised to expand notably and rapidly, and we believe that now is an excellent time to delve deeper into what’s happening within the industry, and examine current trends.
Let’s take a look at three hot topics in the offshore industry right now:
Technology is understood to be key in addressing three of the biggest challenges that are standing in the way of expansion of the UK offshore industry. These challenges are related to monitoring and inspection, mooring systems, and maintenance. Recently, the Scottish Government made headlines for funding a tech acceleration competition, which saw a range of innovative ideas put forward including condition monitoring software and load monitoring systems which identify line stresses. Paul Wheelhouse, Scottish Minister for Energy, says that it is very possible that floating wind technology could ‘reach commercial scale deployment earlier than previously anticipated’.
Health and safety is currently one of the biggest concerns within the UK offshore industry, especially at a time of ageing infrastructure whose maintenance is being delayed as a result of falls in oil prices that are putting a stain on operators. However, it is believed that a significant portion of injuries could be prevented through the provision of suitable workwear.
Hazardous substances are one of the five major risks identified by the HSE as affecting offshore workers, and contact with machinery and being struck by a moving object are common accidents reported to RIDDOR.
Sadly, rates of non-compliance in offshore are rising; an unfortunate statistic when UK Oil and Gas estimates that 40,000 new workers are needed to achieve UKOG Roadmap 2035 goals.
Perhaps the biggest goal for the UK offshore industry right now is to achieve net zero; a feat that is estimated to rely on a £1 trillion investment from the UK economy. The good news is that emissions intensity has dropped by 16% in the last 7 years, according to the UK Oil and Gas 2019 Economic Report, bringing it to 21,000 tonnes CO2/million boe. However, to achieve net zero and reach government targets, this still needs to be reduced further to 4000 tonnes CO2/million boe.
Colin Clark, UK Government Minister, has said that he is ‘pleased to see the oil and gas industry publish their blueprint for net zero’. However, a PwC survey suggests that this isn’t ‘top of mind’ for the UK industry, with many offshore operators continuing to focus exclusively on cost reduction.
The UK undoubtedly has a strong industrial future ahead of it, and offshore energy is expected to support this future. The UK is certainly leading in the way in offshore operations, but it is clear that changes still need to be made in order to secure this strong future, particularly from both sustainability and health and safety perspectives.