Hydrogen and energy hubs can enable full-scale deployment of wind power and other renewables, according to the interim findings of the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) Energy Integration Project.

Published in December 2019, the report outlined the first phase of the project, led by the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA), working with BEIS, The Crown Estate and Ofgem, which is considering how oil and gas infrastructure and capabilities can be leveraged for Carbon, Capture and Storage (CCS), and to support renewable energy production and hydrogen generation, transportation and storage.

Through its first phase, it determined the UKCS to be a “critical energy resource” which can be transformed to support the 2050 net zero target, with opportunities for UKCS deployment being “plentiful, diverse and location specific”. It further found that the UK has significant wind power potential, untapped carbon storage capacity and extensive oil and gas infrastructure in place, while CCS can accelerate decarbonisation of the UK economy and re-use that oil and gas infrastructure, and that larger energy hubs – either on or offshore – can help to capture the full potential from renewables.

The report noted that hydrogen can “transform” the UK energy system by 2050, acting as a key energy vector for power, heating and transport. Onshore blue hydrogen generation could leverage existing gas terminals, with efficient access to gas supply, blending and pipeline networks, with green hydrogen generation also potentially able to take place onshore using electricity generated from offshore renewables. It could also take place offshore, repurposing oil platforms and potentially providing efficient energy transmission – dependent on the distance from shore.

Phase 2 of the project will involve conducting an economic assessment and identification of regulatory enablers to help realise more opportunities for a more integrated offshore energy sector. Upon the completion of the second phase, the project will conclude with a final report and action plan to follow.