14/05/2008 - 22:00

North Sea battle fought on WA fields

14/05/2008 - 22:00

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A RAPID decline in North Sea oil field reserves has prompted at least 70 British and Norwegian companies to establish operations in Western Australia during the past decade.

North Sea battle fought on WA fields

A RAPID decline in North Sea oil field reserves has prompted at least 70 British and Norwegian companies to establish operations in Western Australia during the past decade.

The lucrative WA market has spawned a competitive push between the UK and Norway, which for many years have used the North Sea as a battleground to dominate the oil and gas industry.

Oil and gas cities from opposite shores of the North Sea, like Aberdeen in the UK and Stavanger in Norway, are producing a number of major players in the Australian market, including WA.

British companies Optimus Safety Management and MCS Advanced Subsea Engineering have been backed by Perth-based UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), which facilitates UK oil and gas businesses to access the WA market, or the Asia Pacific market through a local WA base.

Trade development manager Bruce Dann said 50 UK companies had in recent years established a presence in WA, focusing on offshore oil and gas.

"It's well advertised now that this part of the world is the oil and gas hub," Mr Dann said.

"We're seeing a shift towards the Asia Pacific, the emerging markets of China, India, Kazakhstan, Qatar, places like that; those governments actually provide British companies with incentives to be there.

"However, last year, there was a definite swing towards being in this part of the world [WA]." UKTI operates in a manner similar to Austrade but is positioned in 240 embassies, consulates and high commissions throughout the world.

In the past 10 years, at least 20 Norwegian oil and gas companies have also ventured to WA, through independently owned oil and gas partner Intsok.

Intsok encourages Norwegian businesses to invest in WA and to transfer their oil and gas technology to enhance local capacity and capability.

Former Perth Intsok adviser Robert Parker said companies such as FMC Technologies and Aker Solutions were major players in Australia's oil and gas industry, but originated in Norway.

He told WA Business News that three recent Intsok technology showcases in Perth had representation by 30 Norwegian businesses, validating the attractiveness of WA's market to foreign companies.

The WA Department of Industry and Resources has worked with Intsok for more than 10 years, promoting the state as an ideal place to invest because of its world-class infrastructure, highly skilled workforce, low sovereign risk and pro-development policies.

DoIR spokesperson Jim Leven said Intsok was established to help sustain the Norwegian oil and gas industry as reserves diminished.

"The focus on global opportunities is increasing, not only amongst large Norwegian companies, but also amongst small and medium-sized enterprises," he said.

Mr Dann said that global push had created strong competition between UKTI and Intsok to gain a presence in WA.

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