Matt Nicol on the future viability of the North Sea

North Sea companies can unlock £14billion of new investment by working together.

Matt Nicol, Director of Production and Non Operated Assets, speaks at Subsea Expo in Aberdeen on 03 February 2016.

At the Subsea Expo in Aberdeen today, there is no doubt that current commodity prices and the challenges they present will be top of the agenda.

With oil trading at around $35 a barrel, life is tough for any company operating in the UK’s oil and gas industry – as well as the thousands of families dependent on jobs in the sector – leading many to question the future viability of the North Sea.

When you’re at the bottom of the cycle, it’s easy to forget that teams in Aberdeen and across the UK are working on developing major new oil and gas finds which will still be producing decades from now – alongside operator Engie and partner Bayerngas, Centrica is nearing first production on the Cygnus field, the largest gas discovery the southern North Sea has seen in nearly a generation.

It’s not just the major finds that will secure the UK oil and gas industry’s future, however – in the waters all around the country, there are more than 200 small fields which collectively hold up to 1.6 billion barrels of oil equivalent. Unfortunately, right now it is too expensive to develop these fields – but it doesn’t have to be.

At today’s Expo, I’m calling on the industry to work together and come up with new technologies, or adapting technologies that already exist, so we can safely reduce the costs of these fields. Centrica has already proved the industry can do this – at our award-winning Hackathon event with suppliers, where we collaborated on potential new solutions, we cut the cost of some of our projects by as much as 52%. Working alongside the Oil & Gas Authority and the Technology Leadership Board, we have since shared this approach with the rest of industry and government.

Halving the costs of developing these small fields could generate £14billion of UK investment, as well as all the jobs that would create or secure. These fields might be small, but collectively they can make a big difference to the future of our industry and our country’s oil and gas supply.