We may have to accept that production from the North Sea has reached its peak, but there are still clear opportunities available as new and more innovative carbon abatement technologies such as carbon capture and storage ("CCS") develop. The UK, with its close proximity to extensive storage sites, existing network of subsea infrastructure and world-leading knowledge and skills developed over the past 40 years is in a strong and potentially enviable position.
Technologies such as CCS could not only extend the economic life of existing infrastructure and address climate change in a range of practical ways, but also encourage considerable new investment in the North Sea. Although still in the relatively early stages of its development, and not yet commercially viable, CCS alone is expected to eventually become a multibillion-pound market. Given the potential economic and environmental impact CCS is predicted to have on the worldwide energy market, we have already seen extensive government as well as private sector investment into various leading research and development projects in America, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Holland and the United Arab Emirates.
The UK, which launched its own CCS competition in November 2007, still seems to be moving in the right direction with a fully operational demonstration plant predicted to be up and running by 2015. Although there are still various hurdles to overcome, both in the UK and further afield, the current level of private sector investment suggests that businesses are already trying to stake their claim. Given the current rate of developments, perhaps now is the time for all businesses, across the energy sector, to assess not only their current market position but also how best to position themselves in order to secure their place in the future energy industry supply chain.