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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.
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.
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:
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.