UK North Sea Road to Net-Zero: £430B Investment Required

September 16, 2020

Image Credit: twixter/AdobeStock
Image Credit: twixter/AdobeStock

"Reimagining the North Sea as an integrated energy system is essential for the UK and Scotland to achieve their net-zero ambitions. But we need to invest now to close the gap on the key technologies needed to make this ambition a reality," Colette Cohen OBE, CEO at UK's Oil and Gas Technology Center said Wednesday.

Cohen said this as her OGTC, together with oil firm Chrysaor and energy intelligence company Wood Mackenzie, released a report which found that the realization of the vision to make the North Sea an integrated net-zero emissions energy system, will require £430 billion (USD 557B) of new investment "to close the gap on a number of crucial technologies and accelerate their deployment."

While the investment is hefty, the report forecasts it would create more than £2.5 trillion (USD 3,2 trillion) in value to the UK economy

According to the report, speeding up the development of new energy technologies can dramatically reduce emissions, and unlock the full potential of the UK’s natural resources from renewable power sources and oil and gas, to hydrogen and long-term carbon storage.

200,000 jobs

"Maximising the opportunities to innovate across the renewable and fossil fuel sectors could create more than 200,000 new jobs across the UK and contribute more than £2.5 trillion to the nation’s economy by 2050. It would also create a diversified energy sector, support a new generation of highly skilled jobs and open up exciting export potential," the report reads.



According to the report, the oil and gas sector, including its workforce, supply chain, and infrastructure, can enable and accelerate the growth of the renewables sector, while renewable energy sources will be critical in supporting the oil and gas industry on its journey to net zero. 

But, where does one invest  £430 billion exactly?

"We need to digitize our offshore energy sector and solve big challenges like energy storage, infrastructure redeployment, transmission systems, and cost-competitive floating wind structures. By doing this, we can create strategic advantage and valuable export opportunities.," Cohen said. 

The report lists several areas, from offshore platform electrification, methane leak detection, electrolysis tech to cut gree hydrogen cost, CCS, floating wind tech, wind turbine inspection automation, etc. 

The full list of where investments are needed on the path to net-zero is below, as shared in the report:

  • Oil and gas platform electrification, methane leak detection and flaring mitigation
  • Larger blades, taller towers and automated inspection technology for fixed offshore wind 
  • Optimized and standardized floating offshore wind foundation designs 
  • Innovative hydrogen membranes and CO2 sorbents to improve blue hydrogen yield 
  • New saltwater electrolysis technologies to reduce the cost of green hydrogen production 
  • Advanced catalyst materials for hydrogen fuel cells to reduce costs and improve durability 
  • New solvents, sorbents, membranes and conversion solutions to reduce the cost of CCS 
  • Power take-off solutions and support systems for marine renewables such as floating solar

“With its decades of energy expertise, the UK has a huge opportunity to become a leading manufacturer, designer, installer and operator of net-zero energy systems. Leveraging our strength in oil and gas, we can also partner with the renewables sector to accelerate the delivery of the next generation of energy in the UK – and internationally, This is where governments and industry should focus investment at pace in the coming years," Cohen added.

"North Sea will remain the heart of UK economy, but it won't be the same"

Malcolm Forbes-Cable, vice president, upstream consulting at Wood Mackenzie said: “The North Sea is at the heart of the UK economy. This won’t change, but our energy ecosystem will. “This report underlines how the UKCS can be redeveloped into a decarbonized, integrated energy system; one that can optimize the offshore sector’s economic value and deliver a secure supply of affordable energy. 

Hydrogen, for example,  Forbes-Cable says, can be used in place of gas to heat homes and power engines and industrial processes, while reducing our carbon footprint. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has set significant targets for a low-carbon hydrogen economy in the UK, but production remains close to non-existent. There are key technology challenges to overcome before hydrogen can be deployed on a vast scale.” 

Scotland’s Energy Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, said the Scottish Government and the oil and gas sector recognized the important role offshore energy integration and technology can play in the North Sea’s transition to net zero.

"An integrated offshore energy system – including carbon capture, utilization and storage and the use of hydrogen – can help Scotland and the UK meet our greenhouse gas emission reduction requirements in the timescale necessary for action, while also supporting Europe’s decarbonization, too," Wheelhouse said.

He said: "The skills, expertise, and infrastructure of the oil and gas sector and its supply chain will be vital in unlocking these opportunities and also contributing to the development of the great potential for offshore wind, floating wind and marine energy deployment in Scotland’s waters.” 



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