Is UK offshore energy industry doing enough to meet net- zero emissions by 2050?

Is UK Offshore Energy Industry Doing Enough to Meet Net-zero Emissions by 2050?


UK offshore industry body Oil and Gas UK (OGUK)’s recent report highlights both the general importance of striving for net-zero emissions and the role that the oil and gas industry has to play in that goal. Given the industry’s historic contributions to emissions and the steady move towards renewables, the report could be seen as a survival move as much as an industry taking responsibility for its ecological footprint.

However, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), a non-profit group of nearly 250 academics who work to solve pressing issues such as climate change, has raised doubts about OGUK’s commitment to fixing its emissions issues and questioned whether or not this may just be a case of greenwashing.

Stakeholder and communications director at OGUK Gareth Wynn tells GlobalData: “Climate challenge means we all need to live more sustainably and this is a challenge we take on personally and as an industry. We can be a key partner to a successful energy transition which ensures secure energy supply and delivers a diverse energy mix while supporting the advancement of low carbon technologies including carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS).

“Over the past five years, CO2 emissions have stabilized with a small annual variation, while production over the same period has increased by 20%. Production efficiency is at the highest level for a decade, at 74%, with a 4% increase in production when compared to 2017. However, CO2 emissions have decreased by 3% from 2017. The high proportion of emissions from power generation has been identified as a key area of focus in reducing offshore CO2 emissions. UK offshore oil and gas installations are not connected to the national grid and must produce their own power offshore. This is attributable to 75% of installations’ CO2, and therefore high up the list of activities to decarbonize, yet cables to shore are not currently commercial.

“Equinor has committed to a NOK5bn ($550m) investment in its 11-turbine, 88MW Hywind Tampen project, which when operational, will meet around 35% of the 5 Snorre and Gullfaks platforms, equivalent to around 200,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.

“OGUK is working with its members to develop routes to meet our commitment to the UK goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 while maintaining UK energy sovereignty. We are not competing with renewables; we are all part of the answer and are all needed as part of a diversified, lower carbon energy mix. Indeed, we compete with non-indigenous energies that pay no taxes, support no jobs and often have a greater carbon footprint than our own home-produced energy.”

Kathy Mulvey, UCS climate accountability campaign director, tells GlobalData: “UCS’s assessment of major investor-owned oil and gas companies’ climate-related positions and actions for our Climate Accountability Scorecard found that, on the whole, what they are doing remains insufficient to prevent the worst effects of climate change.

“Innovation and improvements in efficiency that help the UK oil and gas sector reach net-zero global warming emissions from its operations and from the use of its products before mid-century are welcome. But I’d have a lot of questions about employing wind power primarily in ways that facilitate new oil and gas projects and lock in future emissions. And to the extent that emissions reductions depend on technological innovation, there needs to be transparency about who will pay to develop that new technology.

“Major oil and gas companies in the UK and around the world are responding to a growing demand from mainstream investors that they do a better job disclosing how they plan to act on climate-related risks and opportunities. So at the end of the day, the rewards for climate action are increasingly intertwined with market incentives.“

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