Business and political leaders underlined their support for the oil and gas industry as the SPE Offshore Europe (OE) exhibition and conference got under way in Aberdeen today.
Russell Borthwick, chief executive, Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce chief executive, used his speech at the opening business breakfast to warn of the perils of rapidly shutting down the sector.
And the city’s Lord Provost, David Cameron, branded those wanting to switch from oil and gas to renewables overnight as people “living in cloud cuckoo land”.
What a crazy time it has been. Nothing compares to the value and the experience of being at a physical event.”
Russell Borthwick, chief executive, Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce
OE’s triumphant return to the Granite City after an absence of four years will see tens of thousands of people attending P&J Live over its four days. It runs until Friday.
Previous attempts to stage the normally biennial event, organised by the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) were scuppered by Covid.
Mr Borthwick said: “It has been four years and wow, what a four years. What a crazy time it has been. Nothing compares to the value and the experience of being at a physical event, bursting with energy, business opportunities and actual people.
“The conference theme – accelerating the transition to a better energy future, with specific focus on energy security, transition, future talent and innovative technology – uniquely captures what’s in front of us.”
Since the last OE, in 2019, oil and gas has been in and out of vogue.
In the run up to the COP26 climate event in Glasgow in 2021 the sector became a whipping boy for politicians and pressure groups keen to accelerate energy transition.
But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine early last year and the subsequent surge in household bills, gave the North Sea fresh impetus and put a number of projects back on the table.
Concerns about energy security have increased awareness in some quarters about the importance of continued domestic production.
However, there remains considerable public and political opposition to existing and new oil and gas production amid widespread concerns about their impact on the planet.
Great oil and gas debate rumbles on
And there have been calls for the UK Government to block new North Sea developments.
Industry leaders have repeatedly warned this puts at risk the ambition for a “just” transition.
Delivering his civic welcome to OE 2023 delegates, Lord Provost Cameron said: “Aberdeen and the north-east of Scotland has already established itself as a region leading on a just energy transition. It has to be a transition and it has to be just.
“Anybody who thinks you can switch from fossil fuels to renewables in an instant is living in cloud cuckoo land. There has to be a transition – that must happen.”