On 9 December, the Oil and Gas Technology Centre (OGTC) hosted a webinar summarising highlights and main messages from its recently published report with the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult (OREC): Reimagining a Net Zero North Sea.
Martyn Tulloch, Head of Energy System Integration at OGTC, opened by outlining the energy potential across technologies in the UK. Wind energy potential was projected at 95-250GW by 2050 which would account for 40% of Europe’s potential for low-cost wind energy. 50% of Europe’s potential resource in tidal (32GW) and wave (32GW) energy was highlighted as possible for the UK, which could act as a predictable source of energy for reliable baseload power. A total 145GW of solar was also pointed to as possible. In addition, 1.7bn barrels of oil equivalent (BoE) and 3.8bn BoE of gas and oil reserves respectively were identified. This created projections for blue hydrogen production from gas of 17-250TWh by 2050, or up to 270TWh of green hydrogen from renewables.
These estimated ranges were produced from three energy scenarios scoped in the report: emerging, progressive, and transformational. The emerging scenario showed renewable energy playing an increasing role in the UK energy mix, but with gas still a large contributor and producing 100% of hydrogen. In this scenario, blue hydrogen production would see development of the largest CCS sector with roll-out of 140MT of storage per year.
The progressive scenario showed significant development of offshore renewables with around 100GW of offshore wind and increases in onshore wind and solar. Hydrogen production here would be 73% blue (195TWh) and 27% green (75TWh), with at-scale roll-out of CCS at 113MT/ year.
A transformational scenario was outlined to include a predominantly (93%) green hydrogen mix at 252TWh compared to 17TWh of blue hydrogen, creating a smaller but at-scale CCS sector at 91MT/year. Offshore wind could generate 150GW of the UK’s electricity with storage and grid flexibility significantly improved.
Direct and indirect employment was seen to be largest in the transformational scenario at 232,000 (see Figure 1). This would be dependent on 60% of UK local content in development of offshore wind and hydrogen sectors. Offshore wind for power and hydrogen generation could see 160,000 jobs created by 2050 with CCS, blue hydrogen and green hydrogen creating 63,000 jobs.
The event proceeded with a panel session, including Martyn Tulloch (OGTC), Colette Cohen (OGTC) and Andrew Jamieson (OREC).
On what needs to be done to achieve the reports vision, Andrew Jamieson emphasised the need for a more integrated approach through collaboration between emerging renewable energy and Oil & Gas (O&G) sectors. He mentioned the commercial and competitive pressures on offshore wind developers currently creating a primary focus on providing renewable electricity capacity. This could be changed, he suggested, through evolution at the policy end to promote integration with O&G and innovative developments through hydrogen production. Colette Cohen pointed towards blue hydrogen as the interim solution to taking pressure off the wind sector through doubling down on already existing O&G sector skills.
On achieving the potential economic benefits in the UK, Colette Cohen emphasised the need for design, manufacturing and installation to take place in the UK by stepping up now. Martyn Tulloch went on to explain that projections in economic benefits were based on a current existing UK local content of 40%, which could be increased to around 60% by 2050.
On stimulating the necessary investment to reimagine the North Sea, Andrew Jamieson noted the bulk of investment can and should come from the private sector. He referenced uncertainties around the future energy mix, technologies and policies as reasons for not seeing investment at pace currently.
The webinar concluded with each panelist outlining their one ask for the future. Martyn Tulloch saw a big investment in technology as a driver of future development with Andrew Jamieson agreeing that, despite being more risky, large-scale demonstration must be deployed in order to take the necessary bold steps to achieving Net Zero. Colette Cohen asked for clarity on energy policy to create investor certainty and allow for achievement of the significant North Sea growth possible.