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The week ahead: the turning of the tide

Last week The Engineer reported on how Scotland’s renewables industry is employing record numbers and that the march of the frackers is gathering pace.

Scotland’s renewable ambitions received a further boost today with news that tides in the Pentland Firth could be used to generate approximately 1.9GW of electricity.

Engineers from Edinburgh and Oxford Universities conducted the study, which was commissioned and funded by the Energy Technologies Institute as part of its Performance Assessment of Wave and Tidal Array Systems (PerAWAT) project.

The research team believe that up to 4.2GW could be harnessed in the stretch of water but the relative efficiency of tidal turbines brings the estimate down to 1.9GW.

The team add that turbines would need to be located across the entire width of the channel to realise the full potential of its tidal streams and that locations have been identified for maximum returns on the energy source.

Employment in Scotland’s renewables industry may have risen by five per cent to 11,695 full-time staff but this is tempered by familiar warnings of emerging skills shortages, an issue identified today as the biggest hindrance to growth for the oil and gas industry in 2014.

Last week’s survey of 540 companies by Scottish Renewables found that over half (54 per cent) planned to take on more staff this year, but the same report highlighted where gaps will occur.

Of the companies identifying skills gaps, 34.6 per cent said they were in need of more graduate level engineers, 29.3 per cent said they require technician engineers, and 27.8 per cent said they needed more instrumentation and construction engineers.

In the shale domain IET hosts a session on fracking at Roll-Royce’s learning and development centre in Derby this week, where Cuadrilla Resources will explain the process, the potential for its use in the UK and how they plan to address numerous concerns expressed about it.

This event occurs in the same week that Energy minister Michael Fallon goes before House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee to give evidence on economic impact of shale gas on energy policy.

The USA has embraced its shale oil and gas industry but is not immune to skills shortages, a fact highlighted in a report published today.

DNV GL’s annual report, Challenging Climates: The outlook for the oil and gas industry in 2014, has been produced with input from a survey of over 430 oil and gas professionals and interviews with 20 industry executives.

For the second year running it found that skills shortages were the number one concern for leaders within the industry, a situation pushing up salaries for contactors alone to an average of $1,000 a day.

The report reveals an overall mood of optimism in the industry for the year ahead (88 per cent) but highlights a list of positions that are becoming increasingly hard to fill globally. They are: project managers (38 per cent), who are most in demand in Asia Pacific; plus offshore-related engineers (marine, technical, operational, piping) (24%), and safety and risk engineers (16 per cent)).

The rapid growth of shale oil and gas production in the US, and the changing nature of projects, has led 59 per cent of respondents to identify acute skills deficiencies.

DNV GL, a technical advisor to the oil and gas industry, believes a more diverse approach to recruitment could help the issue.

‘The skills it takes to manage the construction of a space shuttle or hospital are not necessarily so dissimilar to what’s needed to manage the construction of an oil platform,’ said Elisabeth Tørstad, CEO of DNV GL – Oil & Gas. ‘We will have a talent squeeze if we seek to duplicate the people in the industry today, but not if we are able to utilise the wider talent pool available to us.’

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Readers' comments (4)

  • "a shortage of Engineers and technologists?"

    I am old enough to recall the furor when the first Soviet Sputnik (satellite) was launched in 1957. The West were apparently several years behind. I was doing my 'O' levels and can recall well our Physics master's comment: "this will being Engineering and technology up the scale of interest and reward and recognition" -because its the only profession who's members can 'match' the Soviet advances.

    What happened in the intervening 57 years? We may not have enough Engineers, but as sure as...we have far too many lawyers, accountants, PR puffers, patent agents, auditors, estate agents, insurance sales staff, bankers, ...and media consultants, politicians, civil servants, actors, writers, celebrities, sports stars....even journalists, military and vicars...all who have to be paid for from the taxable efforts of the wealth creators (us!) and/ or from borrowing!

    I have posted on these topics before.

    Perhaps we are close to that wonderful moment when at last, society will see Engineers and technologists, ie us! for what we are? True wealth creators:
    I live in hopes.

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  • Re mike Blamey
    Don't hold your breath

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  • An american here; [aeronautical, to be specific]

    Engineers in the US are given lots of credit.

    Supposedly we are responsible for half of the fourteen trillion dollar gdp and only account for two percent of the US population... I digress.

    That being said, the real shortage becomes those now untaxable items. You see, when Washington state decided to greenwash itself in the 'energy-shortage' craze. They failed to see that their state revenue would be short by about fifty million dollars. Those funds which would have otherwise been diverted to schools and other needs.

    So what happens when engineers solve all the problems and theres nothing left, on which one could collect taxes?

    Then the "2%" become, not just the perpetuators of technology, but the rulers of it...

    Here in the States, a man in New Jersey named Mike Strizki, got a grant and created his own solar-hydrogen infrastructure. one man. he makes energy for his home, pure water, off-loads back to the grid and powers his fuel cell car.

    He solved this YEARS ago.

    I would imagine that the moment something like this rolls out, gasoline will be free, so long as you watch a short 2min advertisement at the pump, brought to you be Adsense from google. [snicker]

    They have enslaved us, you see.

    They tell us they 'need' this and that, when its really them 'wanting' it.

    Its easy to be confused...

    If anyone has ever watched Elysium with Matt Damon. the first question the engineer should ask him or herself is "if we obviously built and designed the thing, why would we want non-engineers living on it... ?"

    THAT is the world, I fully expect to come forth...

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  • Conundrum makes valuable points!
    I like the 2% -giving 50% quote.

    Those who create no wealth have throughout history had to think of silly rules and ways to make sure that those of us who do...will pay for them to live!
    The vicars, of various denominations, had a good thing going for about 1000 years, then the administrators and lawyers took over and have had about 500 more in charge: perhaps it truly is our turn now. We who manipulate Nature's laws to benefit mankind, rather than man's to the benefit of whoever can pay the most?
    I still live in hopes! -though I have not yet given-up my day job!
    Best
    Mike B

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