Isles jobs boon from end of an era

Major job opportunities for island workers and a new lease of life for Arnish could come from the closure of North Sea oil rigs and gas platforms.

The emerging Oil and Gas Decommissioning Sector has the potential to bring new opportunities locally and the Comhairle and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) are making every effort to maximise that potential.

This week a report containing an Oil and Gas Decommissioning Strategy for the Outer Hebrides was presented to members of the Comhairle’s Sustainable Development Committee.

A large number of islanders work offshore in the North Sea and abroad and there are still opportunities there including strong links between Lews Castle College Engineering course and the world’s leading offshore oil and gas companies.

However, decommissioning could offer a new direction with possibilities closer to home.

The report outlines the nine stages involved in the decommissioning process and rates the potential opportunity for the Western Isles for each one.

There is only one land-based stage but this could bring huge benefit to Arnish yard, located just outside Stornoway.

“Spend on disposal is only 1% of total decommissioning spend, although 1% of the projected £35billion spend to 2040 is still £350m to be shared across a finite number of disposal facilities in the UK,” states the report.

“Add this to the surging demand for decommissioning in the Norwegian North Sea sector, which cannot be accommodated by Norwegian yards, and Arnish yard would seem to be well placed to take advantage of this opportunity.”

The report concludes there is High potential ‘given that Arnish Yard already exists as a credible Disposal facility with a long history in Oil and Gas development.

‘A disposal contractor, based at Arnish, could negotiate module sequencing with Tier 1 decommissioning contractors to ensure a smooth demand for services at Arnish.’

There is also reference to many opportunities for an island based disposal contractor to be involved in early on-site works at the ocean asset in several of the earlier decommissioning phases and existing UKCS workers to re-skills for decommissioning work or new entrants to the sector.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is also involved in various areas of work to explore potential opportunities within the decommissioning sector particularly for Arnish.

A spokesperson said: “We recognise the opportunities which the evolving decommissioning sector represents for the Outer Hebrides and Arnish in particular.

“We are seeking to engage with appropriate parties and are setting up a working group for this purpose, which includes industry expertise who can help promote the site and ensure we offer the correct environment, skills and infrastructure to realise the potential for the area.”