More than 7500 jobs have been lost in the North Sea oil and gas sector as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

The chief executive of trade body Oil and Gas UK (OGUK) told MPs that unless the situation improves, as many as 30,000 positions could go.

Deirdre Michie, speaking before the Scottish Affairs Committee, renewed calls for a sector deal to help mitigate the damage, and said: “We have been hit by what we’re calling the triple whammy of Covid, the dramatic drop in the oil price and the low, low gas prices.

“It happened overnight and it happened in a global context.

“We’re a big international industry but we’re a very small community. Certainly in the north east of Scotland we are feeling the impact.

“As a result of Covid, we saw industry having to respond in reducing activity levels by about 40%, we saw projects being pushed back and jobs being lost as a result.”

Ms Michie explained that the industry’s supply chain was also being put under strain, and said some energy firms’ revenue had shrunk by a third.

She added: “ The current estimates are about 7,500 jobs have been made redundant to date, we think more are on the way once the furlough scheme comes to an end and if activity doesn’t pick up.

“If current conditions prevail we estimate that about 30,000 jobs could be lost across the industry.”

When asked what support should be given to help the industry overcome the crisis, Ms Michie said a sector deal was “key” but also added that the Chancellor’s mini budget statement earlier this week had been helpful.

She said: “We appreciated the government’s package in terms of the financial contribution.

“We have seen members using the furlough scheme and some of the other opportunities from the Scottish Government.

“We did welcome the announcement on the basis that it focused very much on jobs and supporting jobs, across all industries.

“There were also other aspects in terms of the carbon capture/air capture approach which were also very welcome.”

“We are looking for the short term support in terms of jobs and the furlough scheme, but also longer term support in terms of where industry goes in a net-zero context.

“The budget in in the autumn will be a key point for us at which we would like to see very positive statements from the Chancellor and from the government about the sector deal and what industry can contribute in that context.”

Professor John Underhill, Associate Professor in the Institute of Petroleum Engineering at Heriot-Watt University also told MPs there had been a 45% decline in the number of students coming forward to study geoscience subjects which would lead to jobs in the industry.

He warned of a skills shortage in future as older workers retire and fewer younger people with the knowledge needed to fill their posts.

Scottish Government finance minister Kate Forbes had suggested the sector had been disappointed by the Chancellor’s statement during a radio interview this morning, which was challenged by Douglas Ross, MP for Moray during the committee.

He said: “The SNP put out a press release saying there was nothing for the industry in the statement, but you have welcomed it. In direct response to Kate Forbes, we should not be waiting for you to change your opinion?”

Ms Michie replied: “I think you’ve probably said it for me.”

She added: “I am very clear that we did welcome the support that was given to jobs, it was a jobs package.”