The North Sea oil industry could have a long bright future with the proper technological advances, but in the meantime shale oil and gas reserves must be exploited, a leading expert will this week argue.

Robert Gordon University’s (RGU) Professor of Petroleum Engineering, Babs Oyeneyin, will deliver a public lecture this Wednesday in Aberdeen. He will examine the gap in demand and supply of oil and gas in the global energy mix.

In an interview with the Herald he explained that the West could no longer rely on cheap imports of oil from countries like Nigeria.

"Along with other developing oil producing countries they are building the most advanced oil refineries in the world. They are turning away from exporting oil, and investing in structures to use it themselves."

He said the development of alternative green energy sources such as wind, wave and tidal power would be a very welcome addition to the global energy mix. But it would not fill the energy gap. However with the right technology, there is still a big future for oil and gas.

"We have explored less than 20 per cent of the world's hydrocarbon deposits, and the recovery factor is only 40 per cent. There is still around 60 per cent left just in and around the oil and gas fields that we have to exploit, never mind elsewhere. So we need game changing technologies to manage the mature fields and explore new frontiers and deeper waters. We need the skills to develop these technologies. The crucial role for universities like RGU is in technological research and development, and giving people the skills to undertake this work. Universities need to see themselves as stakeholders in that mission, to help the industry exploit the potential that is there."

He said that at the same time the UK must look seriously at developing its resources of shale oil and gas, despite recent controversies over fracking.

"Part of the reason of going for shale oil and gas is because they are 'the low hanging fruits'. They are attractive because of easier access, relatively low risk and low costs. But if the UK has to rely on the North Sea alone it will not solve the problems it faces over energy.

"So until the new technologies for the North Sea can be developed, these low hanging fruits should be used to help provide the UK with a viable energy mix. The ongoing Government consultation initiative is laudable and universities like RGU can help the government with informed economic analysis and impact and detailed technical assessment of risks involved in shale gas and oil development. Yes the North Sea will definitely still be viable when the game-changing technologies are deployed, but the low hanging fruits are needed now. That's not in 50 years, but in the next 20. Drastic action is needed."

However he said overall he was optimistic for the UK and Scotland, if the right decisions were taken:

"In 20 years I want to see oil and gas being produced more cheaply. Scotland could be exporting the new technologies and uniquely skilled manpower that will give the North Sea many more years of productive life. Universities like RGU will be able to reach out to the world."

There is strong environmentalist opposition to fracking. Friends of the Earth Scotland are clear: "Not only does climate science demand that we leave these fossil fuels in the ground, there is a growing body of evidence from the USA and Australia, where these industries are more developed, that there are inherent and unacceptably high environmental and health risks associated with shale gas and coalbed methane extraction."

The Scottish Government announced a moratorium on fracking in January 2015, and commissioned a series of independent research projects. These will be followed by a public consultation this winter.