Job fears have been highlighted after it emerged that one of the UK’s largest oil and gas fields looks set to shutdown.
The SIC’s infrastructure director John Smith said the Brent pipeline was likely to be decommissioned next year.
He told today’s (Tuesday) harbour board it represented the first “active step” in the conclusion of East of Shetland oil and gas.
Mr Smith also told the board that offshore maintenance in the Clair oilfield, West of Shetland, this summer was likely to have affected production and tanker movements.
He said the shutdown last year had been “quite significant” and this year had also been an “extensive exercise”.
Shetland South member Robbie McGregor made several calls during the meeting to remain focussed on the “huge job opportunities” available in the transition from oil and gas to renewables.
“I don’t want to hear, when I’m retired and sitting beside the fire, that we missed the boat as far as renewables are concerned,” he said.
“So I think we need to keep that right in the front of the agenda and ensure that long-term strategic plans are in place to make sure that the metaphorical boat, when it comes, we are jumping onto it.”
With oil throughput at Sullom Voe Terminal barely a fraction of its heyday in the 1980s, operator EnQuest has already begun its transition plans.
The company’s half year report, published last week, said it was continuing to develop plans to transform the terminal for future energy uses, focused on carbon capture and storage, production of green hydrogen and electrification.
Mr Smith said that while oil and gas would continue for sometime, the transition had clearly begun.
“The objective and ambition for the Port of Sullom Voe and other associated ports is to find that transition from oil and gas to renewable energy but to do that while we are still active,” he said.
The director stressed the importance of making the transition when the council’s infrastructure and skilled staff were still in place.
“If we hit the point where infrastructure and services had to mothballed or set aside, then they will be much more difficult to relaunch again.”
Reflecting on comments by industry expert Paul de Leeuw, from Robert Gordon University, Mr Smith said: “There is a time to get this right and if we don’t the outcome will be much less beneficial.”
The board also heard of ongoing challenges from port infrastructure manager Andrew Inkster, who highlighted difficulties recruiting and retaining staff, contractor availability, extended delivery times and significant increases in prices for delivery and purchase.
Despite the difficulties, Mr Inkster assured the board critical maintenance was being completed at all times.
The harbour account at the end of quarter one was projected to show a surplus of £18.8m – and increase of £225,000 on the agreed budget – but this was before the Clair shutdown mentioned by Mr Smith.
Shetland Central member Davie Sandison said that despite the challenges, he was pleased to see performance had not been affected.
He appealed for assurances that the harbour account’s significant contribution to the council’s general budget was recognised as being of high risk to the stability of the council.