Back oil and gas industries plea

A key player in the region's energy industry has called for more recognition of the world-leading role played by the East of England's offshore gas companies.

A key player in the region's energy industry has called for more recognition of the world-leading role played by the East of England's offshore gas companies.

The industry employs around 15,000 people in the region, mostly in Norfolk and Suffolk, and contributes more than a £bn a year to the region's economy.

Engineers from the region's gas companies are increasingly working all over the globe, bringing expertise developed in the Southern North Sea to some of the more remote locations of the world.

But John Best, chief executive of the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR), said he felt the gas industry was getting marginalised as the emphasis has turned to the development of renewable energy.

Mr Best said he believed the gas industry not getting enough recognition from organisations such as the East of England Development Agency.

EEEGR, which is funded by the public sector and its 280 private sector members, was set up to promote the region's energy sector and support companies operating in the sector.

Most Read

“As a region we should be commended for taking such a positive and leading role in developing renewables and promoting a low carbon economy,” said Mr Best.

“However that should not be at the expense of the gas or the nuclear industry. We should be celebrating the strengths of our existing regional energy industry as well.

“We have innovative companies based in this region working on projects all over the world. Innovation is leading the way in the Southern North Sea, with the development of new gas platforms that are powered by renewable energy sources.

“Engineers from the East of England are working in all the major oil and gas fields of the world, leading the way with their expertise, working in some of the harshest conditions.”

Mr Best said the offshore gas industry could also have a role to play in the move to a low carbon economy, with decommissioned fields used to store carbon dioxide.

He said: “Jonathon Porritt speaking in Norwich this week said that carbon capture might be a way of buying us time while renewable energy is developed.

“The simple truth is that the renewables sector is in the early stages of development and we will still need gas for many years to come to provide our energy needs. That means we need to continue to invest in our skills and companies to ensure the sector thrives in the East of England.”

But EEDA defended its commitment to the region's gas industry.

Jody Chatterjee, EEDA's executive director of enterprise, said: “EEDA is a big supporter of the energy industry in many different ways. One example is the £500,000 that EEDA has invested in training to help fight this industry's skills shortages through its Towards 2010 initiative to improve production, efficiency and effectiveness.”