By Russell Borthwick

CITY regions understand the importance of diversity, evolution and sustainability. While the fortunes of the Aberdeen city region will no longer be linked to the rise and fall of a barrel of oil, that’s not to say that the oil and gas sector isn’t still critically important.

The results of our recent oil and gas survey, the longest running study of its kind in the UK, show that individual businesses understand these needs too, with an increasing number of them seeing opportunities in less traditional activity such as decommissioning and UK Continental Shelf renewables.

Indeed 86% of firms expressed some likelihood of engaging in decommissioning activity in the medium term, the highest result since we introduced this question to the survey in 2010. We’ve also seen the highest proportion of contractors since 2016 indicate that they definitely expect involvement with renewables work in the near future, showcasing the changing nature of opportunities across the supply chain.

The evidence continues to suggest that oil and gas will be a critical part of the UK’s energy mix in the coming decades and domestic production will be key to support energy security and reduce reliance on imports. However, it’s clear that the energy mix in the future will be far more diverse, and for our existing supply chain, there’s huge opportunity to be seized from diversifying into new markets and sectors proactively.

A total of 52% of firms report that demand for non-oil and gas project related work has increased organically, illustrating an increasing awareness outside the sector for skillsets and expertise to be applied to new problems in new industries.

Having said that, businesses also continue to cite profitability and talent as some of the key barriers which prevent them from considering further work outside of the industry, with these challenges raised by around a third of our respondents respectively.

Given that talent attraction is constraining the industry’s ability not just to grow in the now but to diversify in the future, it makes it all the more important that the industry engages with key initiatives such as Roadmap 2035 to upskill current workers and attract the diverse workforce the industry will need to grow and continue to contribute to the UK’s energy security for decades to come.

Russell Borthwick is chief executive of Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce.