Justin Watson: North Sea collaboration will be key

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Collaboration, teamwork, partnership: whether for individuals or businesses, these are often cited as integral parts of success. In fact, the father of evolution himself, Charles Darwin, said that those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively tend to be the ones who prevail.

In the last 12 months or so, particularly with the drop in oil price, there’s been a lot of speculation about the future of the North Sea. Strenuous efforts are being made to bring down costs, reduce complexity and make the most of the resources which remain on the United Kingdom Continental Shelf (UKCS).

Yet with the commodity price looking likely to be subdued for some time, serious questions persist. How can we sustain activity in the basin, secure the investment needed to continue exploration and appraisal drilling, and avoid early decommissioning?

In looking for answers to these challenges, collaboration is a theme that comes up time and time again. But what does it actually mean? What does it look like in practice? Who does it well and how? And which companies are reaping the rewards of great collaboration?

Although collaboration was a key recommendation by Sir Ian Wood in his UKCS Maximising Economic Recovery Review, many questions remain over what it really means, and how it might benefit the upstream oil and gas industry on the UKCS – so far, there has been little data available which might help provide a solution.

To fill this knowledge gap, we’re embarking on a research project, with support from Oil & Gas UK, which will look at many aspects of collaboration in the North Sea. Drawing inspiration from our American colleagues’ work in the automotive industry, we’re looking to survey both operators and service companies working in the UKCS and, among many other things, find out: what collaboration means, what constitutes effective collaboration and how companies view themselves and each other as collaborators.

With the oil and gas industry’s help, we hope to produce an extensive piece of research which will point the way forward for all of those working in the UKCS. We hope a better understanding of collaboration could help companies in the North Sea continue to improve productivity and efficiency, cut costs, adopt new ways of working, and truly make the most of what remains in the basin.

Justin Watson is a partner with Deloitte