Call to grab share of energy wealth

COMPANIES across the East of England have been urged to reap their share of a multi-billion pound harvest from the southern North Sea over the next 20 years.

COMPANIES across the East of England have been urged to reap their share of a multi-billion pound harvest from the southern North Sea over the next 20 years.

The rallying call was made to 180 delegates at the SNS 09 conference staged by the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR) in Norwich last week.

Rob Hastings, director of marine estates for the Crown Estate, outlined the latest round of locations for offshore wind farms along the East Coast which would make the North Sea equally as valuable as it had been for oil and gas.

But delegates heard that as much gas and oil as possible must still be squeezed from under the North Sea for at least two more decades to meet the UK's rising demands for energy.

Along with carbon capture, wave and tidal technology, hybrid schemes and an electricity transmission network, it meant tremendous business opportunities for the East of England.

“It is all happening within 200km of this room and it is up the industry to rise to the challenge using the best of its skills,”

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said Mr Hastings. “The longer we talk the more expensive it gets.”

EEEGR chief executive John Best added: “We have got to have the will and dynamism to make it happen. We have a platform in the East of England from which we can move forward.”

Details of how the world's biggest wind farm, the Greater Gabbard, was to be built off the Suffolk coast were outlined by Steve Rose, its offshore operations manager.

He said the best comparison he could draw for the 140 3.6mw turbines was that it would be like creating 140 London Eyes in the sea.

There would also be two offshore sub-station platforms in a scheme which would provide the equivalent of 415,000 homes with energy.

Greater Gabbard's operations base at the OrbisEnergy centre in Lowestoft would create 100 new jobs, use local port facilities, introduce a helicopter service link and spend around �1.5m on the old fish market to create storage space.

Mr Rose was one of many speakers to stress how skills gleaned from the oil and gas industry would be crucial in developing offshore wind.

One of a new generation of harsh environment liftboats used in the project will be from recently established Seajacks UK whose managing director Blair Ainslie explained that Great Yarmouth would be a centre for global investment.

“We are talking about world class equipment being based in Yarmouth,” he said. “It is just part of a real bonanza for our energy supply chain if only half of the current plans for the SNS come to fruition.”

He said Seajacks' determination and vision had helped them raise 117 million dollars equity towards an initial two liftboats.

The company would employ 128 people this year - as many as possible recruited locally - and another 50 for each further vessel built.

“If we can do it, so can you,” he told delegates.

Andrew Hockey, Fairfield Energy's general manager for the central and southern North Sea areas, explained how the production company formed in 2005, was using technology to revamp and revitalise existing gas fields, like Clipper South in the SNS.

“We use technology to reduce costs and squeeze out the last few drops from existing assets in the region,” he said.

Mr Best added that because of its geographical location, the East of England was “lucked in” to the exciting new energy world but it was important not to forget how much the country would rely on existing gas and oil supplies for many years yet.

For more information contact John Best or Nikki Collings at EEEGR on

01493 446535.