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Energy / Transmission link case details potential energy demand from oil and gas sector

There could be extra power demand from Shetland – stemming from platforms west of the isles – as oil operators look to reduce emissions

The Clair Ridge platform west of Shetland. Photo: BP

THE POTENTIAL future electricity demand from oil and gas platforms to the west of Shetland could be as much as 200MW within the next 15 years as the industry looks to go ‘green’ – with rigs possibly being powered by cables running ashore into Shetland.

The figure emerged following discussions between SHE Transmission (SHE-T) and representatives from the oil and gas sector as part of a study into the proposed subsea power cable which now looks likely to be constructed over the coming years to connect Shetland to the national grid.

Energy regulator Ofgem confirmed on Thursday that it is minded to approve SHE-T’s plans for the 600MW transmission link if the proposed 103-turbine Viking Energy wind farm gets the final go-ahead.

The proposed link, which could cost £632 million, would allow large wind farms in Shetland to feed renewable energy into the national grid, but power could also be transported north from the Scottish mainland if needed.

It comes against the backdrop of Lerwick Power Station closing within the next five or so years.

A revised needs case submitted by SHE-T highlighted the possibility of up to 200MW of demand coming from the oil and gas fields to the west of Shetland, such as Clair.

SHE-T has estimated that there is 50MW-80MW of baseload demand per platform.

The route for the proposed interconnected.
The route for the proposed cable.

“This follows discussions between SHE-T and representatives from the oil and gas industry, who are considering opportunities to provide platforms with renewable energy from shore in order to reduce carbon emission,” Ofgem said.

Ofgem said it understands that the platforms would require constant access to power, hence the need for energy from shore rather than directly from a renewable power source.

If the demand from the oil and gas sector did materialise then the amount of electricity which would need to be exported south from Shetland via the cable would be reduced.

SHE-T forecasts the demand on Shetland from the oil and gas sector could start at 50MW by 2026, but rise to 200MW in 2024.

However, there remains “significant uncertainty with the capacity and timing of this demand”, Ofgem warned.

Ofgem also said that a delay to the delivery of the proposed cable, which is expected be in place in 2024 if it goes ahead, could mean it is not possible for a Shetland link to meet possible oil and gas demand as decisions could be made to meet it in other ways.

SSEN said that “as well as unlocking Shetland’s renewable potential, the link would help address Shetland’s security of supply needs as well as offering Shetland’s oil and gas sector a unique opportunity to decarbonise its operational electricity requirements, delivering a whole system approach to support the transition to net zero emissions”.

A spokesperson added that “oil and gas organisations are actively exploring the options” regarding the potential for decarbonisation which the cable may bring.

BP, which operates the Clair oil field, has been undertaking studies on how it could power platforms west of Shetland in the future.

As previously reported by Shetland News, there are also new ways of thinking over how Sullom Voe Terminal could be powered in the future if the transmission link and the Viking Energy wind farm are built.

Terminal operator EnQuest there would be a “radical change” to the terminal’s on-site power generation facilities in the coming years as it attempts to reduce emissions.

Ofgem, meanwhile, has also addressed demand from some quarters for an interconnector greater in size than 600MW.

Over 570MW of wind energy capacity has been consented for Shetland, which includes 457MW from Viking Energy, and 107MW between Peel Energy’s approved Mossy Hill and Beaw Field developments.

But the team behind the proposed 23-turbine Energy Isles wind farm in Yell have been pushing for an 800MW cable to provide more space.

Ofgem, though, say that approving an 800MW link would “place too much risk on GB consumers”, while it could also cause significant delays to the cable project.

It says that the generation needed to underpin the need for an 800MW link is not in a position to progress over the coming year(s) – “if at all” – due to a “combination of challenges”.

The Energy Isles project, backed by Norwegian energy giant Statkraft, has yet to receive the consent needed to go ahead.

“Even if significant additional generation did come forward, it is possible that generation would be used to service local electricity demand from oil and gas rather than use the transmission link,” Ofgem said.

Ofgem concluded that there is a “low likelihood” that an 800MW link, which has previously been priced at over £1 billion, would be fully utilised.