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Energy / Oil companies stress emissions aim in response to interconnector consultation

The Clair Ridge platform west of Shetland. Photo: BP

OIL companies BP and Shell have reiterated their desire to reduce their carbon footprint – highlighting again that powering offshore infrastructure through cables from Shetland could be a key way of cutting emissions.

Both companies responded positively to energy regulator Ofgem’s most recent consultation on the 600MW interconnector cable linking Shetland to the Scottish mainland.

The consultation informed Ofgem’s decision in late July to give final approval to the link, which paved the way for the Viking Energy wind farm to go ahead.

The responses to the consultation has now been made public and the oil and gas industry’s connection to the cable plans are a key feature.

It is said that there could be a potential peak demand of 200MW from the oil and gas industry as part of proposals to electrify offshore platforms via a physical link to Shetland instead of their own, emission intensive power facilities.

This is being explored as part of a move, set against a backdrop of government targets, to reduce emissions over the coming years and decades.

Shell, which operates four platforms in the Brent field 115 miles east of Lerwick, said: “Renewable energy resource on and around Shetland has the potential to make a contribution to the UK’s net zero ambitions.

“This includes via transmission linked electricity generation enabling emission reductions from North Sea oil and gas assets that remain critical for the UK’s energy security.”

Shell claimed that the “UK oil and gas industry has significant aspirations to reduce its production emissions as part of its contribution to the UK’s net zero ambition”.

BP, which operates fields such as Clair west of Shetland, said in its consultation response: “We believe the opportunity afforded by natural wind resource in Shetland and its potential to play a role in the UK reaching net zero would likely be put at risk should the transmission link decision be deferred or if an alternative means of providing local power to Shetland (without a UK grid connection) was developed.”

The company added that the provision of renewable power in electrifying platforms is “highly desirable”.

“Integration between the oil and gas and power sectors is necessary for success in pursuit of the best UK net zero solution,” BP said.

“This will likely require innovative regulatory change specific to the project needs.”

In early August BP announced plans to lower emissions by 30-35 per cent by 2030 while developing around 50GW of net renewable generating capacity.

Both BP and Shell warned that a delay on the decision on the interconnector could have put plans for electrification in doubt.

Industry body Oil and Gas UK also responded to the consultation to say that in addition to offshore infrastructure there may be scope to connect “terminals and processing plants” such as Sullom Voe.

Sullom Voe Terminal operator EnQuest previously confirmed its desire to cut emissions on site by around 80 per cent, potentially using imported wind power as part of the process in addition to reducing the size of its on-site gas power station.

“However, connecting oil and gas facilities to the main transmission network will only be economic if the conditions are right in terms of network charges, electricity prices and reliability,” Oil and Gas UK said.

The organisation also warned that the connection being a single cable may require back-up solutions for oil and gas infrastructure – which “may affect the feasibility of further connections to those facilities and the eventual level of demand from oil and gas production”.

The proposed Shetland Energy Hub, a joint venture between Shetland Islands Council and the Aberdeen-based Oil & Gas Technology Centre, reiterated in its consultation response that the ambitious project would likely fail if there was no interconnector in place.

Its aim is to use “local wind and tidal energy sources, coupled with gas and hydrogen, to generate energy on a local, regional and national scale, and reduce carbon emissions”.

“The interconnector will have a massive beneficial impact on the reduction of Co2 emissions from the oil and gas industry in and around Shetland,” the project added.

“We have calculated that carbon emissions can be reduced by eight million tons a year by 2050 if the oil and gas industry can have access to clean onshore sourced energy.”

The 600MW transmission link, developed by Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission, is set to be place by 2024.

It will allow large renewable projects to export energy, while power can also be transferred north too.

The cable, which will cost upwards of £600 million, will run between Noss Head in Caithness and Weisdale Voe in Shetland.