Offshore Energies UK welcomes David Whitehouse as their new CEO
It’s the start of 2023: The UK faces a potential recession, energy security pressures, a major conflict in Ukraine and, sometime soon, a general election where energy and the cost of living will be top of the political agenda. There could be quieter times to take over as chief executive of Offshore Energies UK – but David Whitehouse says he is looking forward to the challenge.
For 50 years, the North Sea has supported the nation with a steady flow of homegrown energy to keep lights on, vehicles moving and the whole economy working.
Over those five decades, oil and gas from under our surrounding seas has given us not just energy security, but also hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Oil and gas activity supports over 200,000 jobs across the UK, including 30,300 direct jobs, 99,700 jobs across the supply chain, and 83,600 jobs across the wider economy. Our workforce and supply chain has a footprint in nearly every UK Parliamentary constituency, and since 1970, the industry has paid almost £400bn in oil and gas production taxes.
The way we get our energy will change over time, but the waters around the UK can keep supporting the nation’s energy needs for the foreseeable future as we transition to a net zero world.
The decarbonisation of our economy is one of the greatest challenges of our time. The offshore energy sector is committed to delivering a successful transition. We will do this by ensuring ongoing energy security, reducing emissions, and developing the new skills and energy businesses necessary for growing opportunities for the UK. If we are to be successful, we must use the existing skills we have in the energy sector, grow our excellent supply chain, and transform our economy to deliver a just transition for energy communities across the nation.
The energy transition offers significant opportunity. Industry and governments cannot afford to get this wrong. Our sector is also vital to upscaling CCUS, hydrogen and offshore wind – all critical technologies to help energy intensive sectors, like cement and power generation, meet their net zero goals. Decisions made in the coming years at Westminster will dictate whether the UK can be at the forefront of the energy transition by attracting the trillion pounds of global investment needed to develop these capabilities.
For the offshore energy sector, it’s clear that the time for talking about the transition is over, and now is the time for coordinated and meaningful action. OEUK and the sector are already in motion.
The state of play
My predecessor, Deirdre Michie, led OEUK for eight years. With her at the helm, the organisation has become more than a trade body.
For the industry it has become a key source of advice. For policymakers and journalists, it has become a first port of call for facts, figures and comment. Deirdre also led our rebranding from Oil and Gas UK to Offshore Energies UK – reflecting the change our members are undertaking.
However, it’s not just new energy systems that we need. To stand any chance of reaching net zero by 2050, we must rethink the politics of energy.
We need to build a long-term plan – a clear pathway for taking our nation to net zero. If we cannot achieve that, then the political battles, the policy swings and the protests will continue at the expense of the transition.
Oil and gas currently provide 75% of the UK’s total energy, including 42% of electricity. Currently 85% of UK homes rely on gas boilers for heating. Decarbonising the housing stock and driving down demand cost effectively and at scale remains a huge challenge.
We need gas and oil for raw materials too. About 10% of the oil and gas we use goes to make plastics, clothing, medicines, carpets, and computers – even our roads are made from oil derivatives. In 2050, according to the Climate Change Committee in a net zero UK, oil and gas will still likely be required to meet 20-25% of the UK’s energy demand.
There will be a huge expansion in renewable energy, but the challenges associated with the intermittent nature of these supplies is still being engineered.
Our focus needs to be on balancing the net zero transition with maintaining our ongoing demand for oil and gas. This is not to say the transition should de deferred or delayed – but we need to responsibly meet our needs while scaling up low carbon replacements. We must not undermine the sector and its associated supply chain, but instead embrace it and utilise its decades worth of expertise to manage the present and build the sustainable future we all want to see.
What do we need to get to net zero?
As long as these resources are still needed, we must make sure we source them sustainably and responsibly. That means nurturing our own domestic industry instead of increasing our reliance on imports while driving the energy transition with our own people and skills.
To do that effectively, we need to think long-term. Energy projects take years to build and last for decades. We need to remove energy from short-term politics and instead start planning for the decades ahead, not just the next election cycle.
We need industry and government working together, as we have done in the past to deliver the North Sea Transition Deal. Removing the barriers to enable efficient deployment of the technologies to decarbonise our oil and gas sector, enable carbon capture and storage, unlock the hydrogen economy, upgrade our power infrastructure, drive the rapid expansion of offshore wind, while continuing to provide the environment for investment in our ongoing energy needs.
We need continued support for UK oil and gas production – advocacy for our sector and its innovative supply chain.
I know that, along with my OEUK colleagues, we will play a central role in that process. If we fail the price will be huge – damaging our industry, economy, and undermining our energy security. When we work together effectively and harness our strengths, we will see the UK into a cleaner and sustainable future.
I am proud that the UK is a world leader in offshore energy. We need active support for the industry and great people we have in the sector today from all and use this as the platform to drive the future.
Offshore Energies UK (OEUK), the leading trade body for the offshore energy industry, has a new chief executive: Dave Whitehouse started in his new post on January 1 and joins the organisation after two decades at CNR International, latterly as Managing Director. He is a passionate advocate for the industry and the great people that support our energy needs.
Dave is a longstanding champion of OEUK. Its membership includes over 400 organisations with an interest in offshore oil, gas, offshore wind, and in emerging low-carbon technologies such as hydrogen production and CO2 capture and storage.
During his tenure at CNR, he had overall accountability for CNR International businesses in the UK and Africa with a diverse portfolio of assets from mature operated fields to frontier exploration. Under Dave’s leadership, CNR was recognised as an efficient operator with world class drilling and decommissioning expertise, and success driven by an ethos of collaboration and empowerment of the teams.
Dave’s arrival at OEUK follows a year of great turbulence for the UK energy industry. Dave says his role will be to maintain OEUK’s leading position, supporting the offshore industry in delivering ongoing energy security, driving the energy transition, and representing its work to policymakers and media across Scotland and the UK. This work is underpinned by OEUK’s industry-leading membership products and services and its agenda-setting insight, content and events.
Get the inside track on what MPs and Peers are talking about. Sign up to The House's morning email for the latest insight and reaction from Parliamentarians, policy-makers and organisations.