The third and final reading of the Infrastructure Bill on Monday will be a crucial milestone on the way to securing the future of the UK's valuable offshore oil and gas industry along with the hundreds of thousands of high skilled jobs, billions of pounds of investment and advanced technology it supports. The passing of the Bill will enshrine in law the objective of Maximising Economic Recovery UK (MER UK), a recommendation of Sir Ian Wood's review of the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) which enjoys consensus across the political spectrum.
There is a danger now that the Bill could be derailed by an unfortunate amendment conflating misguided views about the extraction of onshore unconventional oil and gas with ill-informed prejudice against the principles of maximising economic recovery of oil and gas reserves in the North Sea.
Malcolm Webb, Oil & Gas UK's chief executive, said: “Next month marks a year since the publication of Sir Ian Wood's report on the UKCS, the blueprint for maximising economic recovery of the North Sea's oil and gas which was endorsed unanimously by industry and across the political sphere.
“The North Sea currently faces numerous challenges, including the recent slump in oil prices, so implementation of the Wood Report's recommendations is needed more than ever. The passing of the Infrastructure Bill, including the MERUK initiative, is a crucial ingredient. It is extremely regretful that an ill-informed amendment, backed by the Environment Audit Committee, is being used to derail industry and cross-party efforts to maximise economic recovering of oil and gas from the North Sea, a principle that has cross party support.
“If this amendment is successful the future of the North Sea will be put into serious jeopardy, placing at risk our indigenous energy supply and leaving us more reliant on imports. Hundreds of thousands of UK jobs and the country's place as a global leader in offshore engineering and technology would then also be in peril. I therefore urge MPs from all parties to preserve the cross party support that the Wood Report has so far enjoyed and to ensure that the Infrastructure Bill is approved on Monday.”
Sir Robert Smith MP stated:
“The oil and gas industry supports hundreds of thousands of jobs, a vast UK-wide supply chain and a vibrant export market. From subsea engineering to specialist skills training - the industry is a world leader in numerous fields.”
“The industry faced challenges before the fall in the price of oil. But the downturn means that the MER initiative needs to be enshrined in law as a matter of urgency.
“As we make the transition to renewable energy we will need gas as part of our energy mix. By supporting MER we can reduce our reliance on imported energy and high emission coal. We can also protect valuable jobs, continue to build on our highly diverse skills base and ensure that the export market remains anchored to the UK.”