Oil & Gas UK urges govt for recommitment to sector

Posted on 7 Nov 2016 by Victoria Fitzgerald

Trade body Oil & Gas UK has written to the Chancellor asking him to use his Autumn Statement later this month to help boost investor confidence in North Sea exploration and production.

According to Oil & Gas UK, the North Sea oil and gas industry currently faces fierce global competition to attract investment, with the combined challenges of a low oil price, a maturing industry and uncertainty for the sector.

Oil & Gas UK’s recently published Economic Report 2016 found that investment in the UK continental shelf has fallen to around £9bn this year, from a record £14.8 bn in 2014, illustrating the difficulty for investors in accessing finance for asset development.

Deirdre Michie - Oil & Gas UK, chief executive
Deirdre Michie, chief executive, – Oil & Gas UK.

Chief executive, Oil & Gas UK Deirdre Michie explained: “Sentiment and stability are important, and the Chancellor has a real opportunity to use the Autumn Statement to send a clear message to investors that the UK Continental Shelf is a great place to do business.

“Exploration and development drilling has fallen to record lows and industry figures reveal a drought of new investment approved in 2016 and 2017 looks no better.

“I have asked Mr Hammond to get behind the UK’s oil and gas industry by providing certainty in our fiscal regime, recommitting to the Treasury’s Driving Investment strategy for the sector and, as part of the UK’s new industrial strategy, recognising our supply chain as a key strength in the economy, with world leading capability – equally valuable as aerospace or the automotive sectors, for example.

Michie continued: “The UK oil and gas industry is much more globally competitive than it was two years ago. The cost of doing business in the North Sea has come down significantly and production has increased for the first time in 15 years thanks to the industry’s efforts to make its operations more efficient.

“We urgently need to see new entrants encouraged into the market and increased asset trading is one area that could boost activity in the North Sea by facilitating the trading of late-life assets. But investors are also looking for certainty and we can’t underestimate the importance of government sending a strong signal of confidence and support.”

Today Oil & Gas UK is asking the UK government for four commitments as part of the upcoming Autumn Statement:

  • The UK government to re-affirm their continued commitment to the Driving Investment fiscal strategy which recognises the need for a more competitive, simple and predictable fiscal regime as the basin continues to mature;
  • Promote the increasing competitiveness of the basin as well as the capability of the UK’s oil and gas supply chain, both nationally and internationally, as part of the UK’s new industrial strategy, recognising our sector as a key element of the economy;
  • Complete the constructive work on decommissioning tax relief over recent budgets by introducing measures to enable tax relief to be transferred upon an asset sale. This would unlock the trading of assets by encouraging new entrants to the market and freeing up new investment;
  • Introduce new measures to extend the Investment Allowance for operating expenditure that is aimed at increasing production from an asset or keeping it producing for longer. This could include investment in Enhanced Oil Recovery techniques.

Less than £100m of fresh capital has been committed to the basin this year, with only one new field approved – this compares with five greenfield projects sanctioned last year with associated development capital at more than £4.3bn.

These figures from the Economic Report 2016 demonstrate that urgent action is required if industry is to maximise the economic recovery of the up to 20 billion barrels of oil and gas equivalent still available in the North Sea.