NORTH Sea industry body Oil & Gas UK has convened a group of heavy hitters to help lead the sector’s fightback from the slump triggered by the coronavirus.

The group includes bosses from big oil and gas producers and services firms. Members will be expected to identify ways of stimulating much-needed activity for the North Sea supply chain in coming years.

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It has been formed weeks after Oil & Gas UK warned that the industry in the area had been left at breaking point following the plunge in commodity prices since March.

This has left the industry facing significant health and safety challenges in addition to commercial pressures.

The work of the group will focus on helping North Sea firms to remain competitive in what may be a long period of low commodity prices and to capitalise on opportunities in other areas.

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Oil & Gas UK said many of its members are already working on projects in areas such as carbon capture and storage, hydrogen fuel and offshore floating wind across the UK.

“Our recovery plan will not only look at how we can support the oil and gas industry through improving our competitiveness as a basin, it will also look at how we can use this as an opportunity to position ourselves as an incubator for net zero projects,” said operations director Katy Heidenreich.

The group’s members include Ariel Flores and Steve Phimister who run the North Sea operations of BP and Shell respectively and Phil Kirk, chief executive of Chrysaor Energy, a leading independent producer.

Oil services executives Dave Stewart of Wood and Sian Lloyd-Rees of Aker Solutions will also provide input.

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Separately, a survey by risk specialist DNV GL found a clear majority of senior oil and gas professionals working in the UK expect hydrogen to be a significant part of the energy mix within 10 years.

Some 44% expect the organisation they work for to invest in or develop hydrogen in the year ahead.

DNV GL noted that before large scale hydrogen production could be started a range of issues would need to be addressed.

These include developing the capture and storage technology that would be required to handle carbon separated from constituents of natural gas in the hydrogen production process.