Taking the oil boom to the Isles

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A taskforce aiming to establish the Highlands and Islands as a energy hub, benefiting from the oil and gas boom in Aberdeen, has been set up.

This month saw the Energy North Oil and Gas Taskforce hold its first meeting - chaired by Energy Minister Fergus Ewing and attended by a host of industry representatives.

The Aberdeen industry was described as “stretched to its capacity” with areas like the Western Isles identified as a solution to production and supply chain problems.

Ian Couper, chief executive at Energy North, explained to the Gazette: “While at first glance there is not a lot of linkage between the Outer Hebrides and the Aberdeen Oil and Gas industry there is the opportunity for the islands to provide marine services, fabrication and production.

“There is also the opportunity for joint ventures with smaller Aberdeen companies.”

He continued: “Aberdeen is kind of overheating. There is not enough labour, supply chain and land for industry use.”

He said the Taskforce aims to get some of that over capacity into the Highlands and Islands.

Mr Couper added: “With so much money being invested in upgrading infrastructure and developing supply chain services, businesses in the Highlands and Islands are perfectly positioned to support Oil and Gas developments in the north east.

“This is a win-win situation for the north east industry and the Highlands and Islands economy as a whole.”

He explained the Aberdeen industry developing overseas and growing as well as people retiring had all led to the current situation.

The site at Arnish, which has substantial laydown space suitable for Oil and Gas work could be used by the industry while developments at Lochboisdale harbour could see deep water berthing.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), which is heading up the Infrastructure and Area Promotion strand of the campaign, will highlight new and existing infrastructure at ports, harbours and airports as well as developing the workforce and growing the local supply chain.

An HIE spokesperson explained: “The Highlands and Islands region now has an internationally renowned supply chain and the area is seeing the renaissance of major quay side fabrication facilities, such as Arnish, Ardersier, Nigg and Kishorn, which were developed in the 70s to manufacture major offshore components, and are now finding a new niche in the off-shore markets of the 21st century.”

She continued: “With Scotland’s Oil and Gas industry currently undergoing a wave of new investments, activity in the UK continental shelf looks set for a strong and competitive future.

“As the economic and community development agency for the North of Scotland, HIE is keen to capture as much of this activity as possible.”

The Scottish Government has also put its weight behind the Taskforce.

Energy Minster Fergus Ewing said: “The Scottish Government is committed to supporting and helping offshore contractors and supply companies to work together to see what other opportunities there might be in Scotland.”