Douglas-Westwood’s March 28 DW Monday report discusses the end of the UK petroleum revenue tax (PRT), and how this and other factors may affect the UK oil and gas industry. On March 16, the UK government effectively abolished the PRT and reduced the supplementary charge tax from 20% to 10% – a measure that could result in approximately £1 billion tax breaks over the coming five years. The government’s aim is to encourage investment in infrastructure and new developments, as well as to support production from existing fields in the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS). However, is this just too little too late?
With production in decline, DW says that the UK oil and gas industry has been severely impacted by a longer than anticipated suppression in oil price. This has led to widespread job cuts, reducing the workforce by approximately 26% (65,000 jobs lost). Ultimately, a change in taxation regime is not going to dramatically alter the fate of production operations within the North Sea. What is required is increased investment, and this is only likely to occur as a function of higher oil prices. Operators also require support in ensuring that production infrastructure is maintained – and accessible – to allow future additions through satellite developments. Widespread decommissioning could put this under threat, potentially limiting future field activities and ultimate recovery in the UKCS.
The current downturn does provide some upside for service providers – the UK is expected to be the largest decommissioning opportunity in the coming decade. Douglas-Westwood’s new North Sea Decommissioning Market Forecast 2016–2040 predicts that, between 2016 and 2040, $44–$50 billion will be spent on decommissioning activity on the UKCS. This is over half of all forecast decommissioning expenditure in the report, which also considers Denmark, Germany, and Norway. The UK has the largest volume of installed infrastructure, as well as the oldest platforms. DW believes that decommissioning could play a key role in ensuring ongoing activity for service companies within the North Sea.
DW concludes by saying that, ultimately, the UKCS has specific issues and challenges that will not be solved by broad-brush fiscal policy from Westminster. The need for the industry to work together to find collaborative solutions has never been greater.