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Combining resources necessary to improve offshore safety

Offshore wind farms are becoming a greater part of the UK’s energy mix. However, the move toward renewables has also led to questions on how to improve health and safety for employees working in the industry.

Recently, the Offshore Group of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) recently held an event to discuss how the renewables, marine and oil and gas sectors could collaborate to address the health and safety challenges associated with the offshore sectors.

The event, which was hosted at the Stadium of Light in Sheffield, was entitled Let's Talk: exploring the synergies and differences between the offshore oil and gas and offshore renewables sector. It examined the risks faced by these industries and how they could work together effectively to address them, such as conducting joint exercises and sharing resources.

Simon Hatson, Chair of IOSH's Offshore Group, stated:

“As the offshore windfarms are being built further offshore and the sectors are required to work even closer to each other, it is essential that we consider the safety and health implications of this.

"As was recognised throughout the event, within our industry it is vital that, where we can, we seek to combine our knowledge and resources to put robust safety and health management systems in place. This way we can share our knowledge, efforts and provisions to continue to protect our workers from harm.”

Hatson added that introducing these systems would also benefit the sector by enabling it to become more productive and efficient.

Industry Concerns

Industry representatives used the event as an opportunity to raise their specific concerns, such as the challenges posed due to the different regulatory regimes in place for each sector. However, Chris Streatfield of RenewableUK stressed that “this does not mean the sectors cannot combine to protect employees”.

Peter Lowson of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency highlighted the possibility of vessels colliding or helicopter accidents. However, he felt the risk of such accidents could be reduced by sharing resources.

Offshore wind farms

The amount of electricity produced from offshore wind increased by more than 25 per cent in the first quarter of 2016, and given the growing role it is likely to play energy security, it is vital that the health and safety concerns are addressed.

DONG Energy are currently leading the way in the offshore wind power sector, and it recently committed to building the world’s largest wind farm, Hornsea Project One, which will have the capacity to power more than one million homes. 

SNS Special Interest Group announces appointment of steering group

The Oil and Gas Authority has announced the appointment of a steering group that will look at opportunities to maximise the remaining gas reserves in the Southern Northern Sea (SNS). The SNS Rejuvenation Special Interest Group is a joint initiative with Oil and Gas UK and the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR) and it consists of operators, supply chain organisations, service businesses and duty holders.

Members of the steering group include high-profile oil companies such as Shell, Centrica and Premier Oil.

Eric Marston, Southern North Sea and Morecambe Bay manager for the Oil and Gas Authority, launched the event. He stated that he expects the SNS to be a ‘key contributor’ to help fuel the UK into the foreseeable future. However, Marston also explained the challenges facing exploration in the SNS due to limited accessibility, the costs involved and the commercial risks.

Simon Gray, chief executive of EEEGR, described the steering group as a vital piece of work that could help secure the future of the industry for the East region of the UK.

SIG’s Remit

SIG has set itself a vast remit, which aims to “maximise economic recovery (MER) of gas reserves for at least another 20 years by identifying new opportunities, including examining the potential for carboniferous gas reserves”.

Another ambition of the newly-formed steering group is to develop deeper collaborations with its current operators and with offshore wind developers. It also aims to drive down costs by examining standardisation to streamline processes and equipment use.

Commenting on the launch, Deirdre Mickie, chief executive of Oil and Gas UK, said:

“Oil and Gas UK recognises the key role that the SNS gas fields play for UKPLC and we are keen to ensure that our members play a major part in ensuring the future role of these important assets for the nation for generations to come

The inaugural meeting is due to be held in December.

The need for exploration and investment

Figures released by Oil and Gas UK earlier in 2016 illustrated the significant reductions in exploration, especially in the North Sea, and there were also concerns over the limited funding made available for new projects. While new initiatives have been launched, they haven’t made a significant impact on the downward trend in exploration yet.

Oil and Gas UK have previously called for more investment into the sector and a report released in 2016 noted the decline in capital investment, which had fallen to 9 billion in 2015.

Manufacturing orders on Increase, but food prices expected to rise

The latest Industrial Trends Survey, which interviewed 450 UK businesses, shows manufacturing orders are on the increase, but there was less demand for export orders, although they do remain above average.

Manufacturers were also positive about the prospects for output, with 38 per cent expecting it to grow over the course of the next quarter, however, average selling prices are in for a sharp increase during the next quarter to +19, according to the CBI.

Order book balance and output volumes

The order book balance is now at minus 3, which is a notable improvement on October’s figures of minus 17. However, output volumes also slowed in the last quarter.

Rain Newton Smith, chief economist for the CBI, said:

“It’s good to see manufacturers’ overall order books at healthy levels, and the outlook for output growth remaining robust as we head into Christmas.

“But the weak pound is beginning to make its mark, and prices are expected to rise, especially in the food and drink sector. On the flip side though, export orders remain above average.

Autumn Statement

The announcement of the new Productivity Fund was welcomed by the CBI, the EEF and the Food and Drink Federation; it is hoped some of the measures outlined in the Autumn Statement will give businesses the confidence to invest.

The £23 billion Productivity Fund will mean additional support for innovation and science, which the EEF say is “vital if we are to be at the forefront of the fourth industrial revolution”. The increased support for exports also received approval.

Rising food prices

The weak pound and the rising cost of ingredients has caused problems in the food and drink sector. It is predicted that prices of well-known food brands will rise in the coming months, however, some manufacturers  say they will cover these additional costs where they can.

After Philip Hammond’s statement Autumn Statement, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) issued a statement detailing just how important food and drink manufacturing is to the economy in the UK, with a worth of more than £21 billion.

Strong export growth for food and drink sector

The food and drink sector also showed strong export growth in recent months. The FDF say exports increased by 13.7 per cent, and crucially, non-EU exports grew at twice their usual rate in the last quarter.

The FDF also said branded food and drink exports are at record levels.

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