A Sea Change

Set against the backdrop of the Wood Review and “lower for longer” oil prices, the North Sea oil and gas industry is undergoing a significant period of change. And as the pressures to transition to a lower carbon world mount following the COP21 initiative, this may suggest the basin’s days are numbered. Or are they?

We interviewed more than 30 senior stakeholders from the UK, the Netherlands and Norway, across the value chain in the North Sea. This report is the culmination of their insights and views on the state of play in the North Sea, alongside some potential solutions for sustainable success.

The general consensus is that the North Sea does have a future. However, a number of fundamental issues will need to be addressed in the next 24 months if the basin is to avoid a rapid and premature decline.


The North Sea is an exciting prospect play with potentially 20-30bn boe of undiscovered resources – particularly West of Shetland, the Atlantic Margin and on the UKCS/NCS border;

Window of opportunity

Some say there are 24 months to turn around performance. Time is of the essence if a suite of solutions can be deployed to rescue the basin;

Report card

Significant progress has been made with the Wood Review, establishing the Oil and Gas Authority, the favourable changes in taxation – but there is more still to do;


This is important but not at any price. It has to be to the mutual benefit of all parties despite the ingrained culture of the basin;


Need for leadership

The basin needs new ideas. It needs disruption and change at the same time as recognising the benefit of the existing wisdom and experience ;

Cost efficiency

It’s agreed that it’s essential to attack the cost base of the North Sea. Cost efficiency needs to be embedded irrespective of the vagaries of the oil price;


M&A activity has stalled due to the decommissioning liability issue, unnecessary complexity and lack of funding. However, deals are going through with innovative solutions;

Low carbon

This wasn't top of mind for UK industry participants as they focus on cost reduction. In contrast, the responses from the Netherlands reflected a sector already planning an expansion of renewables post decommissioning.

Contact us

Jan Willem Velthuijsen

Jan Willem Velthuijsen

Chief Economist, PwC Netherlands

Tel: +31 (0)62 248 32 93

Jeroen van Hoof

Jeroen van Hoof

Global Leader, P&U and EU&R, Partner, PwC Netherlands

Tel: +31 (0)65 160 91 78

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