Producing oil and gas in a net-zero future
In March 2021 the UK Government set out The North Sea Transition Deal. This committed the sector to improving stewardship, monitoring and reporting of all greenhouse gas emissions, and to cutting CO2 emissions by 50% by 2030, and measurable net-zero by 2050 . In return, the Government would offer regulatory support and funding for projects such as the electrification of offshore assets, potentially eliminating emissions from the gas turbine and diesel power generators which are the industry’s main greenhouse gas emitters.
Crucial to understanding emissions from oil and gas production has been the adoption of Carbon Intensity as a key metric . This figure examines key aspects of the extraction and refining processes to accurately quantify the carbon emissions per barrel of crude oil produced, and allows specific improvements to be targeted.
Fields with the highest carbon intensity are likely to have depleted reservoirs requiring enhanced oil recovery methods such as water injection and artificial lift. Older topside facilities with original process equipment operating at reduced volumes and pressures (and therefore efficiency) can also contribute to high figures.
Although media and activists tend to focus on licencing for new developments, once in production these modern facilities will operate at far lower carbon intensity than existing assets. Pressure to stop new developments could be viewed as counterproductive if oil and gas revenues (and in turn, taxes) are to remain stable while the industry attempts to decarbonise. And keep the lights on.