The North Sea energy sector needs to focus more on training people for green jobs and shifting offshore workers in the oil and gas industry to renewable roles, argued a leading climate academic.
Stuart Haszeldine, Professor of Carbon Capture and Storage at the University of Edinburgh, told City A.M the UK’s green ambitions relied on a robust and qualified workforce.
He believed the country was risking a huge displacement of thousands of people from stable jobs if they weren’t retrained or moved onto green projects from current oil and gas developments.
The academic recognised that the latest licensing rounds were a practical reality, which City A.M. understands could take place later this week, but that fossil fuels remained a dwindling asset and there needed to plans in place for the future.
He said: “This is probably one of the last gasps of licensing for new oil and gas reserves and resources. We should be at least considering what happens to that resource and what happens to the workforce, during and after the oil and gas regime.”
Industry body Offshore Energies UK (OEUK) estimates the North Sea energy sector employs 160,000 people both directly and indirectly through roles that depend on its production.
Haszeldine highlighted that there are no skills passports for workers in the North Sea between one between one group of companies and another company.
He explained: “If I’m a skilled worker doing pipeline welding, for example, I may be working for a particular large engineering, design and build company. But if I want to go and work for another one, then I have to go and do two or three months, retraining and that’s at my own expense.”
This meant moving from pipeline work involving oil and gas projects to potentially green hydrogen projects was made more difficult than necessary.
“Where government action can be enabled doesn’t have to be dictatorial, but we’re lacking any conversation by what these enabling actions can and should be to support the workforce. This benefits the UK, using those people much more efficiently and effectively,” he concluded.
Haszeldine is a member of the Oil and Gas Transitions initiative, which aims to develop evidence-based oil and gas just transition scenarios for the North Sea region, including Denmark, Norway and the UK.
Stuart Payne, North Sea Transition Authority, Director of HR and Supply Chain, said: “The UK’s offshore energy sector has the potential to remain a real powerhouse for jobs, just as it has been since the 1970s. The NSTA is working with industry leaders to ensure that as the sector delivers energy security and accelerates net zero technologies, we deliver real economic growth and real jobs across the whole spectrum of energy.”
BP, OEUK, and Shell have also been approached for comment.