THE North Sea oil and gas regulator has underlined the potential for the industry in the area to play an important role in helping the UK to tackle climate change.

A report by the Oil and Gas Authority highlights ways in which the infrastructure and skills developed by sector players can support the official drive to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2050, net of amounts absorbed.

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The regulator notes that the industry is under pressure to justify its existence amid calls from some campaigners for production to be stopped on environmental grounds.

However, OGA chief executive Andy Samuel said oil and gas will remain an important part of the UK energy mix for years.

The OGA reckons a strong domestic industry can help reduce the UK’s reliance on imports of oil and form a key part of a cleaner energy sector.

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This will involve integrating oil and gas and renewable energy operations to maximise the output of lower carbon energy and reduce emissions offshore while absorbing some of those from other industries.

“The report finds that multiple offshore integration concepts are technically feasible and would be viable options for helping to lower the oil and gas industry’s carbon footprint and decarbonising the UK economy,” said the OGA.

By way of example, it notes the potential to produce hydrogen, a low carbon energy source, using oil and gas platforms and pipelines.

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Gas-to-wire technology could be used to produce electricity from gas offshore, with the output transferred to shore using cables installed for windfarms.

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The report supports claims that depleted oil and gas reservoirs in the North Sea could be used to store huge amounts of carbon.

Engineering skills developed by oil and gas firms should help in the development of windfarms in the North Sea, including some in deep water.