Region’s energy chiefs “disappointed” to appear to be overlooked in favour of Aberdeen

Oil and Gas platform

Oil and Gas platform - Credit: Archant

Energy chiefs in the East said they were 'disappointed but not wholly surprised' the region appeared to be overlooked after a bid to help the oil and gas industry focused heavily on Scotland.

People: Powering the Future conference at the John Innes centre. Simon Gray. Photo: Bill Smith

People: Powering the Future conference at the John Innes centre. Simon Gray. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2013

Prime minister David Cameron hosted a meeting in Aberdeen with industry representatives where he announced £20m of cash available for surveys in the North Sea to unlock new oil reserves.

Hopes the East would secure a slice of support were raised during Wednesday's prime minister's questions when Waveney MP Peter Aldous highlighted 'serious challenges' in the North Sea, urging Mr Cameron for assurance he recognised the seriousness of the situation.

But despite warm words from the prime minister recognising the region's plight there was no hard cash for the Southern North Sea in yesterday's announcement which centred on Scotland.

The package was announced on the same day the UK and Scottish governments signed a £250m city deal for Aberdeen and the surrounding area, which includes plans for innovation in the oil and gas industry.

Prime Minister David Cameron with Oil and Gas Authority Chief Executive Andy Samuel (left) and Oil &

Prime Minister David Cameron with Oil and Gas Authority Chief Executive Andy Samuel (left) and Oil & Gas UK Chief Executive Deirdre Michie during a meeting at the Oil and Gas Authority in Aberdeen, following an announcement that more than £500 million is to be invested in Scotland's north east after Holyrood pledged additional cash on top of a city deal which is being jointly funded with Westminster. . Picture date: Thursday January 28, 2016. The £250 million UK City Deal for Aberdeen includes plans to boost innovation in the crucial North Sea oil and gas sector, which has been hit hard by plummeting prices. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Simon Gray, chief executive of the East of England Energy Group, said the downturn was seen as very much an oil issue and not a gas issue - which is at the heart of the Southern North Sea industry.

'I am disappointed but not wholly surprised. But I have come to terms with the fact we are generally overlooked in favour of Aberdeen,' said Mr Gray.

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The collapse in oil prices to $35 (£24) a barrel has driven down the price of gas, making it difficult for energy firms to stay afloat.

Mr Gray said more than 1,000 jobs had been lost in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft since the start of the downturn, with the region's service firms struggling to secure contracts.

Waveney MP Peter Aldous. Picture: James Bass

Waveney MP Peter Aldous. Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2014

The support also included £700,000 of funding to be invested in the development of a 3D visualisation facility at the Lyell Centre in Edinburgh for geographical surveys.

Johnathan Reynolds, director at Nautilus - a specialist energy consultancy - said: 'To be honest I am disappointed in the sense it's clearly investment in Scotland which is fine but there has been no announcement that I feel is going to have a direct impact on the East of England.

'There are companies lower down in the supply chain in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft which are really suffering and need some support.'

He called for help to encourage businesses to diversify into the growing offshore wind industry.

Speaking after the latest announcement yesterday, Peter Aldous said it was important it was recognised the oil and gas sector extended right across the UK.

He added: 'I will be working with colleagues such as Brandon Lewis and those involved in the industry to make sure the needs of the industry are fully recognised and we can realise our full potential particularly in respect to gas.'

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