Massive investment in both gas and wind energy resources in the Southern North Sea (SNS) will generate increasing wealth for the East of England economy and business world in coming years.
More than 200 delegates at the SNS 2011 Conference staged in Norwich by TMS client EEEGR heard the upbeat overview from industry leaders this week.
John Sewell, operations manager for oil and gas company Perenco at Great Yarmouth, said that in the last year nearly half of the company's £125m UK investment was in the eastern region and it was planning to drill three new SNS wells this year as the industry picked up after the world recession.
He was delighted that energy minister Charles Hendry had acknowledged that gas was vital to the energy mix for at least another 40 years and Perenco was among the companies prepared to take up the challenge of extracting maximum amounts from the remaining resources in the North Sea.
Paul Lafferty, E.ON Ruhrgas UK operations manager, said that 30% of future gas reserves in the UK were in the SNS. "It's a massive resource we cannot walk away from. We hope to be spudding the Tolmount well in the North Sea this year and the second phase of Babbage in the second quarter of 2012. Babbage produced its first gas last August."
From the wind energy sector, Vattenfall director David Hodkinson said that with partner Scottish Power, they hoped to start building the first stage of the East Anglia Array windfarm, off Norfolk, in 2014 and produce first power in 2016.
He was delighted to be working with EEEGR which they saw as an extremely powerful, no nonsense, business driven body – and he had accepted an invite to join its board.
Delegates at the Holiday Inn, Norwich North, also heard how other opportunities for the region could open up through the development of Carbon Capture and Storage - with empty reservoirs in the SNS being ideal for storage.
There were concerns, however, at whether a bottleneck caused by demand for skilled workers from across all aspects of the energy industry could be met.
EEEGR chairman Alan Barlow said they had long recognised the challenge which was why the Skills for Energy project was created and they are now planning the EPISCentre, an energy skills hub for the region as a business-driven focal point for the issue.