Guest blog: Supporting shale gas SMEs in Lancashire

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A guest blog by John Kersey, IoD Lancashire

As the chair of the IoD in Lancashire, and a Lancashire resident that owns and runs a small business, I was delighted to hear that a new trade association has been formed to represent the interests of smaller firms in the shale gas supply chain.

IoD Lancashire chair guest blog at www.oesg.org.uk

According to EY shale gas report РGetting ready for UK shale gas published earlier this year, a mature shale gas industry could one day be responsible for over 64,500 jobs. Of these, it predicts that the vast majority Р39,495 Рwill be in the immediate supply chain.

The newly formed OESG believes that shale gas and oil extraction will be most successful if the majority of these supply chain roles are occupied by smaller businesses, and I agree.

Smaller firms are unlikely to have sufficient people resources in place to absorb the additional work demands that will be placed on them, and are therefore far more likely to recruit.

It will be these SMEs that benefit most from a newly qualified workforce emerging from the national college for onshore oil and gas, headquartered in Blackpool.

Local opponents of shale gas often claim that there will be few jobs in reality, but I think they’re mistaken. When you consider the entire life cycle of development, it’s easy to see there are all sorts of roles required including: site selection, pre-planning, surveying, land access negotiation, planning consultancy, EIA development, environmental permitting and baseline monitoring – and that’s before breaking ground on site.

This list of functions continues right through to grid connections and eventual decommissioning and site restoration.

I’d like to ensure that the majority of these supply chain functions are captured by SMEs in the areas where onshore oil and gas development proceeds.

Recently, I had the opportunity to ask Cuadrilla chairman Lord Browne about his views on the opportunities for local, Lancashire jobs and supply chain roles. He, too, echoed my sentiments, commenting how it’s important to involve local businesses and suppliers, and how drawing on and developing expertise in Lancashire will be preferable to importing skills and suppliers from overseas.

I’m very pleased that supply chain SMEs now have a trade association standing up for their needs and giving them a louder voice, and look forward to working closely with the OESG to maximise the opportunities for Lancashire’s small business community.