Oil capital 'risks being left behind' as green revolution gathers pace

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SIR Ian Wood, Scotland's first oil billionaire, has warned Aberdeen is in danger of failing to capitalise on its potential as a major centre for the booming renewable energy sector.

The chairman of the Wood Group told delegates on the opening day of the All Energy conference in the city that the North-east had made a poor start in seizing the opportunities presented by the development of wave, wind and tidal power.

He said: "We're very focused on offshore oil and gas, and this, together with the distance from the main wind-farm developments, provide the challenge.

"Aberdeen's oil and gas critical mass began with winning the operations headquarters for the oil and gas majors - Shell, BP, Total, Chevron and others. So far, we've failed to attract any of the offshore wind operators.

"The two Scottish majors, SSE and ScottishPower, are focused on the Central Belt and there's a huge university research and development spend split between Glasgow and Edinburgh, with Strathclyde University particularly prominent."

Sir Ian said the opportunities for Aberdeen were considerable and that companies based in the city already had the expertise to help transform the Granite City from Europe's oil capital into a "world energy centre".

"Are we too late? Not yet, but we're getting that way," he said.

"The North-east of Scotland needs a proactive, co-ordinated marketing campaign focused on the offshore wind operators, highlighting the critical mass of expertise and technology that doesn't need to be sited close to the field location, and which exists in the highest quality in Aberdeen.

"We would still be at a disadvantage as the operators generally like the front-end activities managed close to them, so everything possible must be done to try and persuade some of these operators to adopt Aberdeen as their new projects base."

Sir Ian stressed that expertise in oil and gas developments already honed in the oil capital of Europe could be harnessed to benefit the development of the renewable sector.

"Aberdeen must, over the next ten to 20 years, diversify from its heavy dependence on hydrocarbons to broader energy," he said. "The shorter-term opportunities are offshore wind and carbon capture and storage, and, in the longer term, the marine tide and wave solutions will become more economic."For the good of our medium-term future, Aberdeen must graduate from Europe's oil capital into a world energy centre, and this will require significant pro-action and new initiatives over the next few years."

Sir Ian said Wood Group was collaborating with the Beatrice Wind Farm Demonstrator Project, adding: "We are working with a small, dedicated offshore wind team, tapping in to Wood Group's oil and gas skills, but shortly we will evolve separate offshore wind support businesses to give us the necessary focus, and build-up of resources."