Oil and Gas Technology Centre sets out new vision for establishing North Sea basin as a globally significant clean tech hub
A new era of net zero energy production has the potential to transform the North Sea into one of the world's leading clean technology hubs, according to a major new report from the Oil and Gas Technology Centre (OGTC).
The wide-ranging plans hail the potential for the basin to become a test bed for next generation offshore wind turbines boasting larger blades and taller towers, saltwater electrolysis plants capable of slashing the cost of green hydrogen production, and the development of advance catalyst materials for the manufacture of hydrogen fuel cells. The electrification of oil and gas platforms, methane leak detection and flaring mitigation, meanwhile, could help to limit the climate impact of fossil fuel production and provide a show case for how the fossil fuel industry can support the transition towards net zero emissions.
The sweeping plans are outlined in Closing the Gap: Technology for a Net Zero North Sea, a report by global energy and infrastructure consultancy Wood Mackenzie on behalf of the Oil and Gas Technology Centre (OGTC), with support from exploration and production firm Chrysaor and the Scottish Government.
Delivering on the roadmap would cost as much as £430bn, but could generate more than £2.5tr in value to the UK economy, providing up to 200,000 jobs and significant manufacturing opportunities in the process.
The report urges the government to "invest now to close the gap on the key technologies needed to make this ambition a reality", arguing that doing so would create a diversified clean energy sector with lucrative export potential.
Innovative technologies which the report argues could sit at the heart of a net zero emission North Sea, include cutting edge Airborne Energy Systems [AES], where drones or kites are used at high altitudes to utilise the high wind speeds found above the reach of conventional wind turbines. Current AES technologies are at the "prototype stage" and will take significant investment to realise, the report acknowledges, but they could be developed and manufactured in the UK for export to other markets.
"Reimagining the North Sea as an integrated energy system is essential for the UK and Scotland to achieve their net zero ambitions," Colette Cohen OBE, chief executive of OGTC. "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."
However, she warned that significant challenges remain if the region is to play a full role in the net zero transition, with advances in energy storage, infrastructure redeployment, transmission systems, and cost-competitive floating wind structures all likely to be required in the coming years.
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 [United Kingdom Continental Shelf] can be redeveloped into a decarbonised, integrated energy system; one that can optimise the offshore sector's economic value and deliver a secure supply of affordable energy."
The news comes as the government is reportedly considering increasing support for floating wind turbines, hydrogen,and carbon capture technologies as part of a green recovery packaged and revamped net zero strategy.
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