Danish utility Orsted, independent exploration and production (E&P) company Neptune Energy and cross-industry developer Goal7 plan to explore so-called integrated energy hubs powered by offshore wind to push down fossil production emissions.

The hubs in the UK North Sea would combine multiple energy systems – including existing oil & gas production assets, carbon storage and hydrogen production plants. They could extend the life of producing fields and support the economic case for electrification with renewable energy to keep carbon emissions low, the companies said as part of a memorandum of understanding (MoU).

The agreement will see the companies examine the potential to supply renewable electricity from Orsted’s giant Hornsea offshore windfarm projects to power future Neptune-operated hubs, with Goal7 providing project management support and technical input.

“The UK is a world leader in deploying offshore renewable energy and it is crucial that we use this clean technology as effectively as possible, finding new and alternative routes to market to ensure we are able to maximise the use of renewable power at the time it is produced,” Orsted UK and Ireland country head Duncan Clark said.

“Supporting the decarbonisation of other industrial sectors and providing renewable energy to enable more sustainable carbon storage is an important consideration as the UK transitions towards a low-carbon economy.

“As we build out the largest offshore wind zone in the world with our Hornsea projects and demand for electricity continues to increase, optimising production of these huge offshore assets will bring even greater value to consumers and support the UK’s efforts to meet its 2050 net zero commitments.”

Powering oil & gas exploration with electricity from offshore wind is increasingly seen as a way to lower emissions in the fossil sector in the North Sea, particularly in Norway, where state-run oil giant Equinor is currently powering up its 88MW Hywind Tampen floating wind farm that is slated to provide a third of the electricity needs of the nearby Snorre and Gullfaks fields.

Orsted, Neptune and Goal7’s initiative would go one step further by also integrating carbon storage, and possibly the production of hydrogen.

“Neptune has submitted three applications under the recent Carbon Dioxide Appraisal and Storage Licensing Round, and securing the licences would enable us to develop future proposals for integrated energy hubs in the UK North Sea,” said Neptune Energy’s new energy director Pierre Girard.

“In parallel, the agreement with Orsted and Goal7 will support research into the potential use of wind generated renewable electricity to power these hubs, which could comprise new and repurposed offshore assets and bring together hydrogen production and carbon injection facilities.”