Scotland has been at the forefront of the global oil and gas sector for more than 40 years and has developed a reputation for innovation in the most challenging of environments.
Our oil and gas sector has exported its skills, experience and expertise around the world and has adapted to meet challenges including successive economic downturns.
Ensuring the sector has the capability to meet the growing demand for decommissioning is one such challenge. An increasing number of assets are now reaching the end of their productive lifespan, and so the capacity for decommissioning must increase as well. The growing need for decommissioning brings with it substantial economic opportunities, not only in Scotland’s oil and gas sector but internationally as well.
This is also occurring against the backdrop of the Climate Emergency declared by Scottish Government earlier this year. With concerns growing around carbon emissions and the role played by the oil and gas sector, there is an intense spotlight on the how the sector handles its decommissioning commitments, but at the same time there is an opportunity for the sector to be at the forefront of Scotland’s ambitions to accelerate the circular economy.
Scotland’s Oil and Gas Decommissioning Action plan, published by Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Scottish Enterprise, included a commitment to develop skills and training to achieve a flexible, safe and efficient workforce recognised for competency across a breadth of decommissioning activities.
The first step towards achieving this aim is to gain a clear picture of the key skills requirements of decommissioning, and so Skills Development Scotland has worked in partnership with Scottish Enterprise to publish a Skills review for the offshore oil and gas decommissioning sector in Scotland.
The research involved a broad range of employers and stakeholder groups, and found that the skills required for decommissioning are very similar to those required for wider oil and gas sector activities.
Such skills are therefore highly transferrable, allowing employees to work across a range of oil and gas project types, including decommissioning.
This in turn means there is no strong case for new stand-alone decommissioning training courses at operator or technician level. Instead the focus should be on identifying opportunities to develop existing, relevant courses to address the specific needs of decommissioning projects.
One of those specific needs centres on how skills are applied within decommissioning projects, commonly referred to as a different “mindset” when compared with how skills are applied exploration, development and production activities.
If such needs can be addressed within existing training provision it will help to develop a workforce with transferable skills across different phases of the oil and gas field lifecycle whilst also building knowledge of the differences in how skills are applied in a decommissioning environment.
Following on from this review, Skills Development Scotland is working in partnership with Scottish Enterprise and key stakeholders to build future skills actions into a Scotland-wide plan.
The review provides an insight into the current and future skills needs necessary to take advantage of the opportunities in oil and gas decommissioning, and the recommendations the review contains will support the wider sectoral skills work undertaken by the industry.
Scottish Government and the enterprise and skills agencies have a strong focus on building the capability and capacity of the supply chain with the ambition of helping to establish Scotland as an international centre of excellence in decommissioning that will help realise opportunities not only at home, but right across the world.
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