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At the forefront of the energy transition

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Oilfield Technology,

Meeting ambitious net zero targets requires drastic action. The upstream sector must change – this is nothing new. It will not be easy, but it is doable.

The energy transition offers opportunities for the oil and gas industry, and the North Sea Basin is at the forefront of that change: it has been pushing the boundaries since its inception in the 1970s.

What challenges will North Sea operators face on the road to net zero? And where are the opportunities for upstream players to take the lead?

Drastic action is required – but the momentum is there to drive change

Hydrocarbons will remain a crucial part of the energy mix for some time to come, given that the oil and gas industry provides substantial value to North Sea economies.

However, drastic action is required to meet net zero targets. North Sea governments have set the course by advancing aggressive decarbonisation agendas; operators must evolve to retain a licence to operate. That must be balanced against the need to deliver a return on investment.

Those dynamics are driving North Sea operators to embrace some of the most ambitious decarbonisation initiatives across the global industry.

North Sea leads the way on the road to net zero

The North Sea’s upstream sector is at the forefront of the energy transition as new technologies are explored. While there is no single solution, time will deal with some issues as mature infrastructure is decommissioned. In the interim, older platforms can be adapted without huge capital investment through digitalisation and flaring reduction, for example.

Carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS) pilot projects are being supported by each of the North Sea governments. The North Sea’s Continental Shelf is a proposed area for carbon storage. Subsurface expertise will help determine the feasible locations. Upstream operators are becoming actively involved in the CCUS value chain.

Similarly, feasibility studies are being conducted into green and blue hydrogen. Hydrogen offers opportunities to reuse or extend the life of existing infrastructure, which has a host of benefits. Offshore installations come with an inherent carbon footprint from the manufacturing process. Maximising asset life is advantageous and reduces the risk of stranded pipeline infrastructure assets.

Written by Jessica Brewer and Kyrah McKenzie, Wood Mackenzie, UK.

This is an abridged version of an article originally published in the November/December 2020 issue of Oilfield Technology. To read the full article, view the issue here.

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