More than half of the people currently employed in the UK’s offshore oil and gas industry could by 2030 be working on low-carbon energy projects, research from Robert Gordon University in Scotland has suggested. According to the research, the great majority of these jobs will go from oil and gas into offshore wind farms. The British offshore wind energy is the largest in the world, the report noted, and could employ up to 90,000 people by 2030. Another 40,000 jobs will be created in other low-carbon energy segments of the industry, including hydrogen production as well as carbon capture and storage, the Robert Gordon University researchers also suggested.
One of the key findings of the report was that “Over 90% of the UK’s oil and gas workforce have medium to high skills transferability and are well positioned to work in adjacent energy sectors.” The UK government recently struck a deal with the country’s oil and gas industry, under which the industry pledges to decarbonise by 2050. Per the deal, oil and gas field operators in the North Sea undertook to reduce emissions from the production of oil and gas by 50 percent by 2030 and capture 10 million tons of carbon dioxide annually by the same year. The industry also committed to building 5 GW of low-carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030 and to invest $19-22 billion in low-carbon energy by that year.
At the time, Wood Mackenzie analysts argued the undertaking is a challenging one that would require massive electrification. However, this may not be economical in the current circumstances for many fields, and operators may instead simply shut them in. “Achieving 50% lower emissions by 2030 will require either full electrification of the west of Shetland and central North Sea or earlier-than-expected field cessations,” said Europe upstream principal analyst Neivan Boroujerdi said as quoted by Offshore magazine at the time. Commitments to invest in low-carbon energy, however, will likely be followed through thanks to state government plans to decarbonize the whole UK economy. This will certainly involve the creation of new jobs in low-carbon energy projects that could absorb some of the jobs lost with the shrinkage of the North Sea oil and gas industry.