Jobs boost for energy industry

The Government has welcomed a series of investments by oil and gas companies which will create thousands of jobs and launch a new research centre.

Six separate announcements were made, including plans for new oil and gas fields in the North Sea under a £1.4 billion project which should supply around 5% of the UK's gas production from 2015. The so-called Cygnus project, involving gas giant Centrica, is expected to create around 4,000 jobs.

Oil firm BP said it will open an International Centre for Advanced Materials to support science and engineering, spread across Manchester and Cambridge universities and Imperial College, London, as well as the University of Illinois in the United States. Around £60 million will be invested in the project, which will create a number of new academic posts.

Other announcements include investment by Italian chemical producer Versalis at its Grangemouth site in Scotland, and recruitment of up to 50 new graduate staff by Oxfordshire-based geosciences business Neftex. The news will be revealed at a business summit in London.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: "The oil and gas industry's immense contribution to our skills base, industrial capacity and strength as an exporter are pivotal as we rebalance our economy. Collaboration between business and higher education institutions is boosting the status of the UK as a driver of innovation, and giving our firms a competitive edge. I'm pleased that BP has chosen to partner with a number of our world class universities to find new and more efficient ways of using and generating power."

Bob Dudley, BP's group chief executive, said: "Advanced materials and coatings will be vital in finding, producing and processing energy safely and efficiently in the years ahead. Energy producers will work at unprecedented depths, pressures and temperatures, as refineries, plants and pipeline operators seek ever better ways to combat corrosion.

"Manchester has world-leading capabilities and facilities in materials and it was chosen after a global search to act as the 'hub' of the centre, with 'spokes' in other university departments worldwide."

Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney welcomed the investment. He said: "Scotland has an incredible wealth of energy resources, capable of both meeting our energy needs and generating significant exports to the rest of the UK and Europe, and the Scottish Government's oil and gas strategy, developed in conjunction with industry, lays out a plan to help the industry go from strength to strength.

"With more than half of the value of the North Sea's oil and gas reserves yet to be extracted, 24 billion barrels with a wholesale value of £1.5 trillion, oil and gas will remain an enormous economic resource for decades to come.

"This project forms part of the rising capital investment we have seen in the oil and gas sector - reaching £8.5 billion in 2011 and expected to rise to £11.5 billion in 2012 - which demonstrates the confidence investors and the industry have in Scotland."