UK offshore oil and gas industry outlines plan to cut emissions as talks on transformational sector deal formally begin

The UK’s offshore oil and gas industry has committed to halving operational emissions in the next decade, confirming its pathway to becoming a net zero emissions basin by 2050. The sector is one of the first in the UK to commit to industry-wide targets and provide details on how they will be achieved.

A report published by industry body OGUK, The Pathway to Net Zero: Production Emissions Targets, outlines how targets will be achieved through changes to operations, progressive reductions in flaring and venting, and major capital investment programmes aimed at using electricity rather than gas, to power offshore facilities.

The targets are a key part of a transformational sector deal that industry is now formally discussing with the UK Government. With jobs, the supply chain and energy communities at its core, the sector deal will consider how the UK’s oil and gas industry can support a green recovery.

This could see the sector support wider UK efforts to decarbonise, using its skills and infrastructure to develop critical carbon-cutting solutions such as industrial scale Carbon Capture Usage and Storage, and the use of hydrogen for heating and heavy transport.

OGUK Chief Executive Deirdre Michie OBE said:

“The coronavirus pandemic and low oil and gas prices have had a devastating impact on the UK’s offshore oil and gas industry. Given the limited impact that the severity of the lockdown has had on global emissions, it is clearer than ever that we need a fair, inclusive, and sustainable transition towards climate targets. We need a green recovery which supports jobs, supply chain companies and energy communities.

“We remain committed to addressing the challenge of climate change, as we outlined in our Roadmap 2035 published last year. Our industry will play its part by reducing its emissions and using its skills to develop the solutions that will be needed to make a significant contribution to the UK’s overall targets.

“A transformational sector deal could help unlock the full potential of this industry to support a green recovery and we’re delighted to confirm that we are now in formal discussions about it. With a clear pathway to becoming a net zero basin by 2050 and with support from governments and regulators, we can protect domestic energy supplies, jobs and communities whilst embracing the opportunities which will come from being at the forefront of delivering a low carbon economy.”

UK Government Minister for Energy Kwasi Kwarteng said:“The offshore oil and gas sector’s commitment to halving operational emissions over the next decade is a welcome step for an industry that has a vital role to play in our energy transition in the years to come. The UK Government will continue to work tirelessly with all partners to deliver a dynamic Sector Deal. This will further support the industry in becoming more sustainable, as we work towards achieving net zero emissions by 2050.”

Paul Wheelhouse, Scottish Government Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the islands said:

“I welcome this report from the UK oil and gas industry and the ambitious targets committing it to halving operational emissions over the next decade.This is not only an important commitment from one of Scotland’s key sectors, but a significant step to support Scotland’s just transition to net-zero which helps us move at pace.This report is timely as it follows the Scottish Government’s announcement on Friday 12 June of £62 million to support our energy transition.”

Report author and OGUK Emissions Improvement Manager Louise O’Hara Murray added:

“These targets would remove over 9 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gas emissions from our operations over the next decade; the same as taking nearly two million cars off the road for a year. Each year we will publicly show progress against our commitments on a sector-wide basis.

“They have been developed with industry following a detailed assessment of the measures needed to deliver them. They consider changes to operations, progressive reductions in flaring and venting and major capital investment programmes to decarbonise production operations.

“Many of the major capital investment projects which will help our sector to decarbonise, including the powering of assets with electricity instead of hydrocarbons, the development and deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) and hydrogen both on and offshore, will need to be developed at scale to help other industries accelerate their own efforts to reduce emissions.”

Case studies 

Name: Suzie Ferguson

Age: 40

Job title: Carbon capture technical lead

Company: Wood

Location: Reading

As carbon capture technical lead in Wood’s Technical Consulting Solutions business, Suzie works on techno-economic assessments of emerging CCS technologies and the design of carbon capture plants for thermal power plants and industrial emitters in oil refining, hydrogen and petrochemicals.

Suzie comments: “As a student in chemical engineering at the University of Surrey, the vision of a more sustainable world inspired me to tackle the most defining challenge of our era – climate change – as part of my future career.

“With increasingly urgent demand to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the landscape of the energy industry is rapidly changing and seeking practical ways to decarbonise our existing assets and unlock the potential of renewable energy have become key drivers.”

As more countries set ambitious net-zero carbon emissions targets, energy intensive industries are facing the unprecedented challenge of meeting rising energy demands while minimising the carbon footprint of operations and shifting to low-carbon power generation.

She continues: “Wood is already supporting new and existing energy customers with major projects to dramatically cut emissions and improve the efficiency of their assets by delivering advanced and integrated carbon capture and storage solutions.

“CCS can safely contain more than 90% of the carbon dioxide emissions produced from the use of fossil fuels in power plants and from industrial processes such as steel and cement manufacture. This technology can even be used to capture carbon from the air, from the combustion of biomass or waste, and store it safely underground as a real time carbon offsetting.

“As a solution, CCS not only prevents emissions entering the atmosphere but could provide a shift change in the UK’s energy economy.”

Name: Euan Bathgate

Age: 39
Job title:
VP, Engineering Support
Company:
Opex Group
Location: Inverurie, Aberdeenshire

Inverurie resident and oil and gas worker Euan Bathgate has driven the development of a new solution which helps oil and gas companies reduce CO2 intensity and emissions across their operations. Euan, a VP for OPEX Group in Aberdeen, led the development of X-PAS Emissions which uses predictive technologies combined with traditional engineering to improve energy efficiency on offshore installations.

Euan explains, “The new solution provides an opportunity for operators to reduce CO2 by dynamically calculating the lowest possible emissions for a given production target and plant configuration. Users of the system have full visibility of the energy use and emissions intensity of their assets and are prompted with the operational decisions and actions they can take to reduce emissions”.

The former offshore worker says a lot has changed during his time in industry, but there will still be a role for oil and gas as part of a diverse energy mix. This underlines the importance of producing oil and gas with as little emissions as possible; “What we’re doing makes our customers’ existing data valuable and we see this solution as an important part of mix because it can make an impact on emissions immediately, while industry also works on the bigger capital solutions such as hydrogen and Carbon Capture Usage and Storage.”

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