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North Sea Energy Innovation Project

27 Oct 2016

Major challenges lie ahead for the international community in the wake of the Paris agreement (UN 2015) if CO2 emissions are to be substantially reduced and global temperature increase limited to no more than 1.5°C. The answer lies in a fast transition to a new, low-carbon energy system. The Dutch North Sea is an area where this energy transition is actually materialising, with the current strong ramp-up of wind energy construction.
An offshore system integration concept for 2030+

A report published by TNO describes the options and gives examples of opportunities if innovative efforts are accelerated in the Dutch offshore energy domain and sets a framework in which innovation could be executed to realise an integrated energy system. While this report considers only the Dutch part of the North Sea, logically, in the long term, international connection and integration in the offshore sector is desirable, if not vital.

A common vision

The North Sea also hosts several other important (economic) activities, including fishing, sand and shell extraction, shipping, military use, nature reserves and recreational activities. Given the many uses and the limited space available in the Dutch sector of the North Sea, this requires synergies between different uses. In the current situation, the main players in the offshore energy domain, the gas sector and the wind energy sector are largely operating in rather separate worlds. Overall operational efficiency, economics and environmental performance could be significantly improved by (partly) sharing infrastructure, offshore services, human capital, products and knowledge. Such an integrated energy system would allow the system to become more efficient and robust in terms of supply security and cope with fluctuations in demand and supply. For these reasons, system integration in the offshore energy domain is unavoidable, and successful system integration can only be achieved if the common drivers of the stakeholders can be identified. So the report identifies these drivers and outlines a common vision for the North Sea as a clean energy source for the Netherlands.

System integration

The most important offshore energy challenges and drivers for system integration from the perspective of offshore wind sector, offshore gas sector and society concern policy and regulation, optimisation at the lowest social (system) cost, geographical limitations, short- and long-term grid integration, public and environmental impact, and shortage of human capital. For the wind energy community, the main driver is to lower the cost of wind energy through synergies in construction, operation and maintenance, and the optimum use of space through strategic planning. The gas community is focused on maintaining security of supply with the lowest possible emissions through the electrification of platforms, which could reduce GHG emissions, increase energy efficiency and lower the operational costs of E&P installations. Longer infrastructure lifetimes would mean more time to explore the opportunities to reuse installations and reservoirs for innovations like system integration, CO2 storage, power to gas and balancing the offshore energy grid. For society at large, the main desire is to see a transition to clean energy at acceptable cost while moving towards a low-carbon system that remains at least as reliable as our current energy system.

Innovation is key

Key to achieving these objectives is innovation, and the report identifies four innovation themes. Strategic spatial planning aims to balance competing commercial, ecological and societal interests and open opportunities for the smart coupling of infrastructure. Society and governance is another theme in which understanding and mitigating public perception issues, regulatory hurdles and human capital shortages are central objectives. The third theme centres around the physical network with the aim of achieving an integrated energy network in the Dutch North Sea. Finally, in respect of Health, Safety and Environment, the goal is to maintain and strengthen the trust that offshore activities can be performed safely and with due regard for the environment.

North Sea Energy (NSE) project

The NSE programme will run for at least five years and members will be able to change their membership status annually. Under a 50% co-funding scheme, the programme will receive co-financing of at least €500,000 from TKI Gas and TKI Offshore Wind (WoZ), and organise four general NSE meetings per year for knowledge transfer. A 50% discount is available for SMEs. Interested parties can join the offshore energy system integration programme to become part of the North Sea Energy Community.

The TNO report contains details on the potential specific topics of research. For each project, a thorough analysis of benefits for all stakeholders will be drafted and the key performance indicators per project are Economics & Finance, Strategic Spatial Planning, Technology & Innovation, Legislation, Organisation & Stakeholders, Public Engagement and Environmental Performance.

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