Nearly 40,000 jobs could be created in the North Sea over the next two years, according to the Bank of Scotland.
A survey of oil and gas companies has found that many firms are planning to expand despite the industry facing an exploration crisis.
Confidence remains high among 69% of bosses about their growth prospects in 2014/15, but this is down on the 77% who predicted growth last year.
Concerns around talent in the sector have also grown, with 38% naming a shortage of skills as the greatest challenge they will face in the same period, up from one third (33%) last year.
The availability of skilled workers was the most challenging for engineering companies (87%) while just one in five (20%) in exploration and production felt it was an issue.
International expansion was a priority for 64% of those asked, up 5% on last year’s results. Africa is the priority market for future investment with over a fifth (21%) targeting growth there while North America 17% and the Middle East 18% also remained key areas for investment.
With international income accounting for 44% of turnover, almost half (46%) of exploration and production companies said they were already planning further growth in foreign markets in the next 24 months.
When asked about diversification, nearly half of all companies (48%) were moderately to intensely interested in onshore shale gas, while nearly two fifths (38%) had the same degree of interest in funding solutions for decommissioning activities. More than a third (36%) also said they were interested in diversifying into renewables.
Stuart White, the Bank of Scotland commercial area director, said: “The findings of this report are excellent news for the economy, demonstrating the employment-generating nature of the oil and gas industry now and in the future.
“With most of the UK’s oil and gas firms clustered in Aberdeen and the north-east, Scotland should reap the largest share of these new jobs. However, other parts of the UK will benefit from expansion plans.
“The report also highlights the growing challenges posed by the lack of a skilled workforce. Positive action is under way to address this shortfall, with new partnerships between higher education institutions and industry as well as the creation of new specialist apprenticeship schemes.
“The results also demonstrate the global nature of the industry as more firms look to expand internationally and tap into the markets with the largest levels of recoverable reserves.
“With 44% of income already generated internationally, this is not a new trend and reflects the reach UK firms have as the industry benefits from the expertise gained in the challenging North Sea environment.”