North Sea workforce expected to lead the statistics as energy sector risks redundancies due to COVID-19

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NORTH Sea oil industry workers are expected to make up a large percentage of those using the furlough scheme within the UK energy sector.

New figures released by HMRC show that 16,300 energy industry staff have used the UK Government Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme at a £39 million cost to the Treasury.

Around 600 UK energy firms applied to use the scheme.

Despite HMRC not providing a sector specific energy breakdown, offshore unions and representative body Oil and Gas UK said they expect “the huge expanse” of North Sea support services to make up the majority of the furlough figure.

Jake Molloy, RMT regional organiser, told Energy Voice: “As a conservative estimate, I would be put the figure around 5,000 to 5,500, and just for the offshore oil and gas sector – onshore it could be double that because we know a lot of office staff have been furloughed.

“And then you’ve got the wider supply chain involving consultants, support services, inspection firms and tech companies.

“It’s a wide net that gets cast when you’re talking about the oil and gas supply chain.”

Data provided by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in 2019 showed that the North Sea industry accounted for 70.3% of total energy employment in the UK.

However, Oil and Gas UK has warned the sector could face 30,000 direct and indirect job cuts in the next 12-18 months due to the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last week, BP announced it would cut 10,000 jobs this week, with 2,000 expected to hit its UK workforce.

Oil and Gas UK Chief Executive Deirdre Michie commented on the job losses: “This shows the very real and personal impact of the coronavirus pandemic on jobs and livelihoods while companies are stepping up to deliver the net zero agenda.

“There is a serious risk the UK loses the skills it needs not only to meet existing energy demands from domestic resources, but also to meet the UK’s climate ambitions.

“It underlines the need to continue working with governments to deliver an inclusive, fair, and sustainable transition to a lower carbon future.

“This is the best way to protect jobs, create new business opportunities and ensure energy regions from the north east of Scotland to the east of England are not left in the dark.”