AROUND 25,000 UK North Sea jobs could be lost over the next 10 years as advances in robotics technology allow for more work to be automated, experts have said.

The Rystad Energy consultancy said at least twenty per cent of the jobs in areas such as drilling, operational support, and maintenance could get automated as oil and gas firms look to harness technology to boost profitability.

Rystad noted that robotics technology is already being used to help firms secure big cost savings on inspection, maintenance and repair (IMR) work.

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“The next generation of robotics solutions is already emerging within subsea IMR in the form of perpetually underwater robotics solutions that offer significantly lower costs and better reach than a conventional remotely operated vehicle (ROV)” said Rystad.

“While a conventional ROV needs to be sent down from the surface, these new systems can stay underwater permanently and easily access places that are difficult to reach for conventional ROVs, irrespective of the weather conditions.”

Rystad’s analysis may spark fresh concern about the outlook for jobs in the North Sea amid the downturn caused by the coronavirus crisis. Firms in the North Sea supply chain have shed around 30,000 jobs amid deep cuts in spending in the area.

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However, Sumit Yadav, energy service analyst at Rystad, said: “Despite the huge potential of robotics, operators should be aware that these savings will be partially offset by the considerable investments required for the adoption of these solutions.”

Rystad said job cuts due to robotics would likely be met with some resistance from trades unions. Robotised work processes may also need to pass regulatory hurdles.