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North Sea Energy programme: cooperation wind and gas in North Sea worthwhile

Smart coupling of offshore wind energy and gas infrastructure offers opportunities for climate, society and economy • 28 May 2018

Today the TKI North Sea Energy programme is presenting its initial results in the Zuiderstrand theatre in The Hague. The research programme aims to further develop opportunities for the energy transition resulting from making smart links between offshore wind energy and gas infrastructure. Both the technical and the economic feasibility of this initiative have been studied. The analyses show that options that make economic sense are on the cards. Examples include the electrification of oil and gas platforms, the use and reuse of gasinfrastructure for the transport of wind energy in the form of hydrogen, and the reuse of empty gas fields for the subsurface storage of CO2. The first decisions to get such systems operational will be required in the very near future. Not only to attain the climate objectives, but also bearing in mind the rapidly approaching decommissioning of oil and gas infrastructure in the North Sea.

Read our whitepaper Offshore system integration as transition accelerator in the North Sea

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A sustainable energy system can possibly be achieved more quickly if the existing oil and gas infrastructure in the North Sea is combined with existing and new wind parks. In this way the North Sea can play an important role as an accelerator of the energy transition.

Reuse

A large part of our natural gas still comes from offshore platforms in the North Sea. But this production is continually in decline due to the emptying of gas fields, a low gas price and rising operational costs. At the same time, offshore wind is emerging strongly. This offers opportunities to use the extensive offshore infrastructure for the extraction of oil and gas in the transition to renewable energy sources. By applying system integration these functions are combined, so that they reinforce one another, and together save space and expense.

“Platform electrification is a good example and starting point for coupling systems,” says René Peters of TNO, quartermaster of the North Sea Energy programme. “This requires a smart coupling between offshore wind parks and the present oil and gas infrastructure. Offshore production platforms consume some of the gas produced to supply the power used on the platform. If the top 10 gas-consuming platforms were to be connected to the offshore electricity grid, this could deliver a net saving of roughly 500,000 metric tons of CO₂ per year.”

The reuse of existing pipelines, platforms and empty gas reservoirs for the capture and storage of CO2, and the production, transport and buffering of energy carriers like hydrogen forms, in addition to platform electrification, the core of the approach. The electricification of platforms will enable future uses, such as CO2 storage and Power to Gas. As well as the gain in terms of accelerating the possibilities for transition, this plan saves the high costs of dismantling the oil and gas infrastructure in the North Sea.

Synergy offers opportunities

Opportunities for the environment and climate, as well as for trade and industry and for the Dutch Treasury are created when offshore sectors and civil society parties seek synergy. To enable this, a few practical actions are proposed by the North Sea Energy programme:

  • An extra market incentive is needed to bring about CO2 savings. This is necessary to make large-scale investment in system integration profitable and thus to accelerate the energy transition.
  • The drafting of a shared vision and joint action plan for offshore system integration in relation to the energy transition in the North Sea. The interactive North Sea Energy Atlas (Noordzee Energie Atlas) could prove a useful resource for this task, also being launched today.
  • The third action being proposed is that the regulatory framework be put in place in good time, so that it does not become a barrier that delays the implementation of system integration options.

North Sea Energy Programme

The North Sea Energy programme was launched in May 2017 to accelerate the energy transition in the North Sea. This programme is supported by the Topsector Energy and has about twenty participants from trade and industry, sector organisations, research institutions and civil society organisations (NGOs). The program is intended to have a term of several years, and currently has funding in excess of 1.5 million euros.

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