Aberdeen has lost its focus on being the energy capital of Europe, it has been claimed.
At an event this week, a panel stated that the £250m city region deal made a “mistake” in funding the Oil and Gas Technology Centre (OGTC) which is a “barrier” to renewables.
The claims came from Peter Strachan, an energy professor at Robert Gordon University, and Dick Winchester, who is on the Scottish Government’s energy advisory board.
They were speaking at the Aberdeen Independence Movement’s event on the future of the energy industry in an independent Scotland.
Mr Strachan highlighted that there is still a huge opportunity for oil and gas, but said there has been a “disappointing” lack of focus on other industries.
However the OGTC responded by pointing to work it does in renewables with electric power, tidal energy and that it is developing a long-term business case for repurposing offshore infrastructure for hydrogen generation.
Mr Strachan said: “One of the most disappointing things that I have seen in recent years in Aberdeen is that we have lost this focus on Aberdeen being the energy capital of Europe.
“I think the focus on oil is of course incredibly important for the region but we must start thinking about the energy transition as well.
“We’re in a great place to fulfil our potential in terms of renewable energy.
“We’ve got all these transferable skills from the oil and gas industry which we can take and apply offshore, for offshore wind for example.
“I think in terms of the City Region Deal, that we’ve made a big mistake in terms of that £180m devoted. It has turned out to be pretty much devoted to oil and gas research and development.
“We do seem to be back talking about Aberdeen as being the oil capital of Europe and I think we should be selling this vision once again of Aberdeen as being the energy capital.”
Fellow panellist, Mr Winchester, echoed his comments and described the OGTC as a “barrier” to renewables development.
He added that building up a large renewables sector in the region is possible with the right motivation and investment.
In response, Colette Cohen, chief executive of the OGTC said: “All industries must work together including oil and gas, renewables and hydrogen.
“That’s why the OGTC is delighted to partner with a range of organisations and technology developers to co-fund and co-develop technologies that will deliver this potential, including the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult.
“Our work on Tie-back and Facilities of the Future is driving alignment with tidal/marine renewables and marginal field [oil and gas] developments. While our investment in technology, such as EC-OG’s ground-breaking tidal turbine system ‘Subsea Power Hub’, is harnessing the energy from ocean currents to produce autonomous electrical power.
“We are also developing a business case for transforming the use of existing offshore infrastructure, re-purposing assets and demonstrating the viability for decentralised generation of hydrogen.
“In the longer term, investigating the potential to marinise electrolysis technologies for powering marginal field developments – a major step change in approach.”
NEW SUCCESS STORIES
The event was also told that Aberdeen is starting to “take back control of its own future” with success stories emerging from a variety of sectors.
Panelist Erikka Askeland, an entrepreneur and former P&J business editor, said industries like tourism and food and drink are getting “more oxygen”.
She said that while oil and gas continues to remain vital, others are also coming to the fore.
“What we’re probably seeing as the oil and gas depletes, and becomes more expensive to extract, we’re not seeing the end of that industry yet but what we are seeing is the city finally taking back control of its own future,” she said.
“That isn’t so necessarily so heavily focussed on oil and gas, other things are finally starting to breathe a little bit.
“Looking at the other things we have going on in this region, which is tourism. We have amazing facilities here which no one would even necessarily have spent time thinking about because it was so filled with oil and gas workers that you couldn’t get a reasonable hotel room.
“Now you see people noticing our castles, reclining stone circles. It is the only city in Europe where you can see dolphins playing in the city centre in the harbour.
“Then of course the shire is starting to tell a good story.
“One of the things I found having growing up in Canada, I grew up in Calgary which is much like Aberdeen in that it is an oil and gas city surrounded by cowboys and here it is an oil and gas city surrounded by huge beef and farming sectors.
“It is a primary producer of food and drink. BrewDog has become one of the first billion-dollar ‘unicorns’ not in the technology sector but the beer sector.
“There’s more oxygen now in those sectors.
“None of these will be the giant in the room that energy has been but just having that variety is going to give us a sense of ourselves back.”