Integrating the UK offshore energy sector, including closer links between renewables such as offshore wind and oil and gas can reduce carbon emissions and support net zero goal, a report published by the Oil and Gas Authority in the UK concluded
The report, ‘UKCS Energy Integration: Interim Findings,’ was published on 17 December 2019, and discusses the first phase of the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) Energy Integration project led by the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA). The project also includes the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, The Crown Estate and Ofgem. Its aim was to consider options to help feed into a new strategic vision of the UKCS as an integrated energy basin.
The project considers how oil and gas infrastructure and capabilities can be leveraged for carbon capture and storage (CCS), and to support renewable energy production and hydrogen generation, transportation and storage.
It finds that multiple offshore integration concepts are technically feasible and would be viable options to help lower the oil and gas industry’s carbon footprint and decarbonise the UK economy.
The report emphasises that opportunities for UKCS deployment are plentiful, diverse and location-specific. Additionally, the UK has significant wind power potential, untapped carbon storage capacity, and extensive oil and gas infrastructure in place.
All of the concepts discussed in the report can reduce carbon dioxide emissions but differ in terms of scalability and timeline.
The concepts discussed in the report include platform electrification (which is already being pursued in Norway), which could significantly reduce emissions from oil and gas installations by using low-carbon electricity, including directly from offshore windfarms, to replace generation from gas and diesel. “Technology for platform electrification has been proven and could enable near-term emissions reductions for the oil and gas industry,” the authors of the report said.
Other options considered include gas-to-wire (GtW), which could enable gas to be converted to electricity offshore and transported using existing windfarm cables. In terms of technical feasibility, individual elements are proven, said the report, but this is a niche solution suited, particularly, to the southern North Sea (SNS) and east Irish Sea (EIS). GtW could also be combined with CCS to avoid incremental CO2 emissions.
CCS has already been piloted offshore and is considered essential in all UK decarbonisation scenarios, not just to decarbonise the power sector but also to enable deep cuts from other sectors, including industry. The storage potential across the UKCS and opportunity for oil and gas synergies is described in the report as “very significant.”
Hydrogen has “feasible production avenues” through both ‘blue’ hydrogen (produced by natural gas reforming) and ‘green’ hydrogen (electrolysis produced by renewables) routes, enabling decarbonisation of power, heat and transport, and the offshore energy sector – both oil and gas and renewables – offer significant production, storage and transport potential, for example through the repurposing of offshore oil and gas infrastructure and offshore electrolysis, with transportation in re-used pipelines.
The report says offshore ‘energy hubs’ can help scaling up net-zero energy solutions, for instance by allowing hydrogen to be generated offshore using windfarms and stored in reservoirs to be transported to shore using oil and gas infrastructure. Multiple sites across the UK would be suited to energy hubs.
OGA chief executive Andy Samuel said, “The energy transition and the UK’s drive to net zero requires the oil and gas industry to embrace energy efficient operations, whilst supporting the growth of CCS, offshore renewables, and hydrogen.
“Our report highlights the wide range and combination of solutions that can play a part, in line with the Committee for Climate Change’s recommendations. Phase II is well underway, focusing on regulatory and economic aspects and we look forward to working closely with industry and government in enabling action through 2020 ahead of COP 26.”
Phase 1 of the project was completed by Lloyd’s Register, whose energy integration expert Ali Kerlogue said, “As an industry, the approach we’re taking in developing sustainable energy sources has made significant strides in the last 12 to 18 months.
“The OGA’s report identifies the solutions that will help drive the transition to an energy mix that embraces renewable sources using existing oil and gas infrastructure, the concepts of which can be used anywhere in the world not just the UKCS.”
The OGA has appointed EY to support delivery of phase two of the project, which consists of an economic and regulatory assessment, to identify barriers, opportunities and quick-wins. The project will conclude in Q2 2020, after which a final report will be published.