Steering a positive course through troubled waters

In challenging times for the oil and gas industry, Energetica is fuelling the development of a world­class development corridor

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The swathe of coast that sweeps up from the River Don to the Craigewan dunes beyond Peterhead, and west to Aber­deen International Airport, not only encompasses one of Scot­land’s most beautiful stretches, it also defines a unique area of opportunity and growth. Energetica, a 25-year pro­gramme of projects and initiatives, does as it says on the label, and is fuelling the creation of a world-class development corridor for oil and gas, energy and tech­nology organisations, big and small.

Energetica is much more than a loca­tion concept, however, with the aim, along with the region’s public and pri­vate partnership Aberdeen City and Shire Economic Future (ACSEF), of transforming this corner of the north east into a high-quality lifestyle, leisure and global business hub.

First established in 2007, Energet­ica is managed collectively by Scottish Enterprise, Aberdeenshire Council and Aberdeen City Council, an important step for an area that already sits at the heart of the European oil and gas indus­try, as an international centre for energy companies, and home to world-leading innovation.

The challenge, however, while build­ing a global showcase for energy technology development and energy efficiency, is to ensure Energetica cre­ates a sustainable development corridor, and situated as it is within a natural and built coastal environment, also delivers on integrating economic growth with quality of life.

These are demanding times for the oil and gas industry, and research and development, the knowledge it cre­ates, and the expertise it continues to nourish, will be crucial to the area’s sus­tainability, across all the energy sectors.

Professor Ferdinand von Prondzyn­ski, the principal and vice-chancellor of the city’s Robert Gordon Univer­sity, is the ACSEF Energetica Champion and chair of the Energetica Steering Group. He points to the importance of the development corridor in terms of strengthening the area’s ability not just to host, but to add value to research and development in oil and gas, hydrogen transport initiatives, and clean energy projects.

Research and development is critical to the role Energetica now has in sup­porting investment in Aberdeen and the north east’s economy.

“This must all be seen in the con­text of the city region deal, between the two councils and the UK and Scot-tish governments,” he says. “Research and development are central to the role Energetica can play in providing both support and a location for investment in the economy of the north east of Scotland.

“Even in difficult times for the oil and gas industry, we’re not a low-cost economy here; this area is never going to be a major hub for call centres, for instance. The area’s future sustainabil­ity is tied up with the north east as a high-value research and development proposition, and Energetica provides a number of opportunities to deliver this.

“One of the key objectives needs to be to ensure that the oil and gas supply chain, and particularly the larger compa­nies, see the north east as a good place for research and development. When the oil goes, the operators will leave, but not the expertise that has built up here. It’s important to anchor that here, and to do so the Energetica programme will help to ensure that the expertise and the infrastructure are better here than any­where else, so that we give the oil and gas supply chain a reason to stay here and show the attractiveness of the north east for other energy-related work, and indeed other industry sectors.”

Given it’s location, it is not only that supply chain and ready access to indus­try expertise that makes Energetica such an attractive investment oppor­tunity, with ongoing and significant investment in transport infrastructure underpinning the programme.

The overhaul of north-east Scotland’s road network is already underway with the £745m Aberdeen Western Periph­eral Route project due for completion by winter 2017. This, together with the upgrading of the A90 between Balme­die and Tipperty, which runs through the heart of the Energetica corridor, will not only open up the region, but also provide better connections between the north and south of the city.

Meanwhile, Aberdeen International Airport is undergoing a transformation, with a multi-million pound terminal refurbishment that will expand the departures lounge, create new catering and retail space, improve international arrivals facilities, increase the security search area, and also boost executive lounge capacity.

In addition, Peterhead Port Author­ity are planning a £47m development of the harbour. Already one of the UK’s most versatile ports, with all-weather deepwater berthing facilities serving the fishing and energy sectors, the aim is to provide a fully integrated fish­ing hub by the end of next year, with ongoing capacity for the energy indus­try’s supply and maintenance vessels. A recent report also highlighted the potential for using Peterhead Port as a carbon import hub.

“This again is part of the city and region deal,” says Professor von Prondzynski. “Ongoing analysis of what investment is needed in terms of infra­structure, and of connectivity, remains a priority. If we are to be serious global players then the infrastructure has to match that agenda.”

Recent announcements for the Ener­getica development corridor include the decision by Statoil to build the world’s first floating wind farm, The Hywind pilot park, offshore Peterhead, with pro­duction expected to begin in late 2017.

Shell and Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) are planning the world’s first post combustion CCS plant on a gas tur­bine at Peterhead Power Station, with the project due to be in place by 2020, and creating up to 600 jobs during construction.

For Energetica, as for the govern­ments and local authority partners in the collaboration that drive it on, a suc­cessful progression of the programme’s aims will not only bolster the north east’s claim on being the country’s eco­nomic powerhouse, but of being key to the future of Scotland as a whole.

“The north east is the key driver of the Scottish economy, responsible for more of the Scottish GDP than Edinburgh and Glasgow together,” adds Professor von Prondzynski.

“If Scotland is to prosper then the north east must prosper. The need for Energetica, the need to support this region is not just a priority for the people here. The spin-off effect in jobs is huge, a serious downturn in the Aberdeen area would not just impact here, but everywhere. Energetica, and the success and sustainability of the north east, is important for the whole of Scotland.”

Destination for innovation

AS ENERGETICA creates a sustainable development corridor, the ambition is for the north east to become a leading destination for innovation, knowledge, learning and skills in energy generation, hosting the organisations and research institutions that are working together in response to global energy challenges.
The £330m Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre serves as the gateway to this corridor, with a 10,000 capacity arena, exhibition, confer­encing and hotel facilities close to Aberdeen International Airport and the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route junction.

Throughout the corridor expanse, there are already eight business parks capable of hosting every business size from single desk start-ups to large scale HQ offices – the D2 Business Park, Aberdeen International Business Park, ABZ Business Park, Enerfield Business Park, The Core, Aberdeen Energy & Innovation Parks, Balmacassie Commercial Park, and the planned Energetica Commercial Park. A ninth business park at Blackdog, just north of Aberdeen, is also progressing through the planning process.