OPINION: The UK North Sea oil and gas industry is sending out its own message of hope this Christmas — aiming to raise public awareness of its often overlooked role in supplying the nation’s energy.

Trade body Oil & Gas UK (OGUK) is asking the public to spare a thought for 9000 offshore workers whose absence from their own families this Christmas will help to keep the rest of us warm and our turkeys roasting.

It follows a bruising 12 months for the sector amid sustained environmental protests.

This week, dozens of UK business leaders called for a more “reasoned debate” about oil and gas.

In an open letter, they raised concerns that politicians in Westminster and Holyrood calling for an end to North Sea exploration and production could lead to outright hostility towards the industry.

This is even as natural gas still fuels a large portion — about 40% on average — of UK power generation capacity.

At one point earlier this week, that even rose temporarily as high as 60% when wind power dropped to just 2% of the mix, according to Gridwatch.co.uk.

Early 2021 saw the publication of the North Sea Transition Deal and started hopefully for the sector.

But the year headed downhill as the the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow neared, with groups including Greenpeace campaigning against the Cambo offshore development.

The protests, fueled by mixed political messaging, culminated in operator Siccar Point Energy this month suspending the scheme after partner Shell said it would not invest.

The decision cast a cloud over the sector and highlighted how much ground it has lost in the public debate.

The UK this week launched a long-awaited public consultation — one of the North Sea Transition Deal's promises — on a new checkpoint to ensure future oil and gas licensing is in line with UK climate goals.

Given recent events, the checkpoint could be too little, too late, to shift opinion.

Atop OGUK's Christmas wish-list, however, will be the hope that its campaign brings greater public appreciation for the industry.

(This is an Upstream opinion article.)