The oil and gas sector is enjoying a fresh boom thanks to soaring prices and a renewed sense of confidence, according to a new report.
The report, from industry body Oil and Gas UK, says it expects to see an estimated £40bn invested in the industry over the next five years.
Malcolm Webb from Oil and Gas UK said: “We provide employment for about 440,000 people across the UK – 45% of them in Scotland, a lot of who are here in the north east.
“We’re talking here about another many thousands of jobs. Up to 15,000 new jobs could be created.
“And these jobs are well-paid, well-skilled jobs.”
A recent survey found that £4.9bn was invested in the industry in 2009. This increased to £6bn in 2010 and is expected to rise to £8bn in 2011.
The survey claims that fresh investment has resulted in greater efforts to exploit older, existing fields.
It also says that new Atlantic fields to the west of Shetland could be responsible for up to a quarter of UK production within the next decade.
Industry bosses say investment plans will not be affected by the recent surge in prices caused by unrest in the Middle East.
The report’s author, Mike Tholen, said: “Believe it or not, our industry likes stable prices.
“The very high prices we’re seeing really don’t drive investment.”
Oil and Gas UK claims the industry can be at the forefront of trying to rebuild Britain’s economy, although it says the industry cannot afford to become complacent.