Industry big-hitters appointed to champion UK subsea sector through 24-month lean period

Neil Gordon
Neil Gordon

The fast-growing UK subsea sector, which supports 60,000 jobs, is in for two years of tough times and will only weather the storm if it embraces innovation and new technology.


A new report by Infield has revealed that the major indicator of subsea activity, the order of subsea trees, is expected to fall by almost 30% between 2014 and 2019. Short-term expenditure is being hit by lower than expected order volumes in 2014.


But the industry has responded by appointing a quartet of big-hitters to champion it through the lean period between now and 2016.


On the opening day of Subsea Expo, Europe’s largest subsea event, the chief executive of Subsea UK told delegates that the industry is facing considerable challenges but the fundamentals in subsea remain relatively strong and the sector could see a significant improvement in 2017 – 2019.


Speaking in Aberdeen, Neil Gordon said: “The swingeing cap-ex cuts and low crude price are beginning to bite. The UK’s subsea sector came out of a strong 2013 to a relatively flat second half of 2014.

“The existing order book kept the industry going but, as this dries up and projects are abandoned or postponed until the oil price recovers, we are in for major challenges.”

 “In the UK, we have the largest concentration of subsea expertise and capability in the world – and we must protect that. According to Infield, overall capex growth predictions start to become more positive after 2016. It is therefore imperative that during this period Subsea UK demonstrates strong leadership by pushing the industry to more quickly adopt innovation and technology.


“We need to better explore how projects are currently delivered and then make the step-change to deliver major efficiencies. While subsea companies must speed up the development of new technologies, the industry must be prepared to embrace new technology. It has to become less risk-averse and more receptive to supporting field trials and implementation of new technology.”


Subsea UK is urging companies to turn to the re-launched NSRI (National Subsea Research Initiative). The focal point for subsea research and development, NSRI is bringing academia and industry together in a much more meaningful way to collaborate on getting new technology to market much more quickly.


NSRI launched the key areas on which it will be focusing new subsea R&D. Dr Gordon Drummond, Project Director, said: “Our themes support the need to reduce exploration and operational costs, increase efficiency and productivity and reduce decommissioning costs as outlined in the Wood Review.”


The NSRI has appointed the following leaders of these thematic advisory groups to act as subsea champions:


  • Peter Blake, Subsea Systems Manager, Chevron
  • Paul Charlton, Chief Executive, PDL Solutions (Europe)
  • Jason Tisdall, business line manager, Fugro, and
  • Paul White, Director, Subsea Technology, GE Oil & Gas


Neil Gordon concluded: “As well as making the necessary fiscal adjustments to immediately support the North Sea and secure its long-term future, the UK Government must be aware of the importance of the subsea sector – 50% of whose revenues are attributable to exports.”

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