Offshore energy integration plays a key role in the UK’s move towards its net zero target

The UK’s upstream regulator, Oil and Gas Authority (OGA), in its recent study titled ‘UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) Energy Integration: Interim Findings’ claims that integrating the UK offshore energy sector, including closer links between oil and gas and renewables, can reduce carbon emissions in oil and gas production and can actively support the delivery of the UK’s net zero target by 2050. This study assessed five offshore integration technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS), platform electrification, Gas-to-Wire (GtW), hydrogen, and energy hubs to potentially reduce emissions from the oil and gas production sector further.

Platform electrification concept substitutes open cycle gas turbines (OCGTs) with electricity supplied by underwater cables directly from offshore wind farms. Gas-to-wire projects aim to tap undeveloped gas reserves and generate electricity for export through an offshore grid using existing wind farm cables. CCS concept comprises of compression, transport and injection of COemissions into offshore subsurface storage sites. 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. Offshore energy hubs can help with scaling up net zero energy solutions such as allowing hydrogen to be generated offshore using windfarms and stored in reservoirs to be transported to shore using oil and gas infrastructure.

Bhavana Sri Pullagura, Power Analyst at GlobalData, comments on the concept of offshore energy integration: “Power consumed on offshore oil and gas rigs are primarily supplied by gas turbines, which are responsible for a large portion of the total CO2 and NOx emissions. By replacing gas turbines with offshore renewables or allowing them to operate in parallel will reduce CO2 emissions significantly and support the transition towards the country’s net zero emission target. Existing oil and gas rigs must adopt low-carbon alternatives, critical to reducing the energy sector’s own CO2 emissions.

“Conventionally, companies and utilities have focused on procuring cleaner power for reducing their overall emissions. For instance, Equinor is planning to use floating wind to power its Tampen oil and gas platforms in Norway. However, the UK government forecasts that oil and gas will remain an important part of the country’s energy mix for the foreseeable future, during the transition to net zero by 2050, and that the UK is expected to remain a net importer.”

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