Technological solutions to speed decarbonisation of Britain’s ageing offshore oil & gas fleet are being sought by the UK Oil & Gas Authority (OGA) through a newly-launched £1m ($1.35m) competition, with expectations that electrification of production complexes on the UK continental shelf will lead to a 4GW jump in power demand.

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With diesel- and gas-fuelled power generation accounting for some two-thirds of oil & gas production emissions, it is calculated that using electricity either from a cable linking offshore oil platforms to the onshore grid or from a nearby offshore wind farms could slash CO2 by some 2-3 million tonnes a year.

“Electrification of oil & gas installations is a vital part of industry’s licence to operate and to meet its North Sea Transition Deal [the UK’s package of support measures designed to underpin the regional oil & gas sector’s transition to clean power production] emissions reduction targets,” said Andy Samuel, CEO of the OGA, the industry’s regulatory body.

“This is also a big opportunity for industry to support offshore wind expansion, with lasting infrastructure that will provide benefits beyond oil and gas, long into the future.”

UK energy & climate change minister Greg Hands said: “Through our landmark North Sea Transition Deal, we are supporting the UK’s oil & gas industry in the transition to a lower carbon future.

“This £1m investment for electrification projects demonstrates how we are delivering on these commitments, enabling the industry to develop the infrastructure it needs to decarbonise North Sea production.

“Not only will this help the oil and gas sector to reduce their emissions, this can also support new offshore wind capacity to help grow the UK’s offshore wind sector, supporting the shift to green technology and renewable energy in the UK.”

The OGA said the competition would be focused on “studies technical, engineering, and/or commercial that will bring electrification projects a step closer to reality”.

Platform electrification is seen as a “key component” of the OGA’s plans for an all- energy basin in the UK North Sea, with its earlier Energy Integration Report finding “a mix of platform electrification, carbon capture and storage, offshore wind and hydrogen” could offset up to 60% of CO2 abatement needed for the UK to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

Scotland recently announced it was shaping up plans to launch a new, standalone offshore leasing round targeting smaller-scale floating wind farms linked to North Sea oil & gas fields, as part of accelerating plans to decarbonise hydrocarbon production in its waters.

Several pioneering projects that aim to use floating wind to decarbonise oil & gas operations off Europe have already been launched, including the industry-leading 88MW Hywind Tampen, now under development, which will use an array of 11 spar-based turbines to cut emissions from Equinor’s Snorre-Gullfaks complex off Norway.

Developer Cerulean Wind – started-up by a pair of former petroleum executives – is advancing a scheme to use 3GW of floating wind off Scotland to decarbonise more than half the emissions being produced by oil & gas operations in the central and northern UK North Sea. And oil & gas drilling contractor Odfjell recently spun-out a unit named Odfjell Oceanwind that aims to use floating wind unit ranging in size from 1MW-11MW to decarbonise offshore hydrocarbons production.