Offshore energy integration can drive UK to net zero


Integrating offshore oil and gas, renewables, hydrogen and carbon capture and storage (CCS) could deliver around 30% of the UK’s net zero target, according to a report.

On 6 August, the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) published its Energy Integration Project report, in which it highlighted how offshore renewables, such as wind, wave and tidal, can contribute an additional 30% to the 2050 net zero goal. It means that, combined with complementary investments in onshore energy infrastructure, the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) could potentially support close to 60% of the UK’s decarbonisation requirements. Alongside the benefits in relation to energy production and cutting greenhouse gas emissions, the report noted close coordination of these technologies will also ensure that they become more economically attractive.

Blue hydrogen was cited as being instrumental to the growth of CCS, converting the UK’s natural gas supply into low carbon fuel. Mapping out a build-up scenario, the report suggested that 250TWh of hydrogen could be generated from natural gas in 2050, replacing almost 30% of UK natural gas consumption and supporting around half of CCS expansions within the same timeframe.

Offshore wind will be key to achieving the UK’s net zero goal, with 60-75GW of installed capacity expected by 2050. Through electrolysis, the report said a significant proportion, between 25-40%, of wind power electricity could be converted into green hydrogen. This would help to both mitigate renewables intermittency and provide efficient energy transport from distant windfarms.

Other key findings included that oil and gas platform electrification will be key to cutting sector production emissions, re-use of oil and gas reservoirs can accelerate CCS, and oil and gas capabilities, infrastructure and supply chain were found to be “crucial” to energy integration and potentially capable to support further offshore renewables expansion, including floating wind. Combining these technologies into energy hubs, linked to both existing and future onshore net zero clusters, can accelerate deployment and improve project economics.

To realise this vision of the UKCS as a key enabler for net zero, the project made a series of recommendations, such as accelerating and enabling energy integration projects; leveraging oil and gas assets and capabilities, essential for CCS, preserving existing infrastructure value; and taking anticipatory steps to coordinate regulatory processes for the deployment of UKCS energy integration technologies.

To take this forward, the OGA said that, together with project partners, it will implement a number of actions. It will accelerate progress on pioneering projects to ensure cross-industry opportunities and timely regulatory engagement, it pledged to enhance regulatory coordination, to anticipate and address regulatory barriers and/or enablers for CCS, hydrogen and offshore electrification, and improve data availability, quality and access through coordinated efforts across government and relevant industries.