NORTH Sea oil firms could slash the emissions associated with offshore production by around 80 per cent using power generated by floating windfarms while achieving significant cost savings, a study has found.

The findings of the research led by Orcadian Energy underline the potential to use renewable energy to increase the sustainability of North Sea operations amid expectations oil and gas will remain part of the energy mix in the UK for years.

A consortium led by Orcadian has developed a plan to install a network of floating windfarms off Scotland that could be used to significantly reduce operators’ reliance on gas-fired turbines to power platforms.

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Orcadian reckons the approach could play an effective part in tackling one of the biggest sources of emissions generated by the industry. It is working on plans to develop the Pilot heavy oil find east of Aberdeen.

The switch to using power from windfarms would result in operators having to pay to adapt their platforms. However their running costs should reduce as they would have to pay much less in respect of the official Emissions Trading Scheme.

HeraldScotland: Orcadian Energy chief executive Steve Brown Picture: OrcadianOrcadian Energy chief executive Steve Brown Picture: Orcadian

Orcadian said continued use of gas power would be incompatible with the commitment to drive down emissions made by the industry under last year’s North Sea Transition deal.

The company calculates that floating windfarms could allow electrification to be achieved for around $2bn (£1.6bn) less over a 10-year period than a system that involved linking platforms directly to shore power.

It believes that the savings generated through the use of its approach could also help to extend the lives of a range of platforms and to maximise the recovery of the North Sea’s reserves.

The company is confident the model could help the UK reinforce its reputation as a leader in the global industry during a period of huge change.

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“We believe the UK’s pursuit of greater energy security and sustainable oil and gas solutions has reached a key turning point,” said Orcadian chief executive Steve Brown.

He said Orcadian’s concept could help further safeguard the energy security of the United Kingdom and ensure that North Sea production will become amongst the lowest for carbon emissions globally, returning the North Sea to its accustomed role as a trailblazer for the industry.

Mr Brown’s comments highlight the way in which the debate about the future of the UK’s energy system has been impacted by the surge in oil and gas prices triggered by the recovery from the pandemic. The increase gained fresh impetus after Russia launched its assault on Ukraine in February.

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In December Orcadian was commissioned by the regulator to evaluate an approach to the electrification of North Sea oil and gas platforms amid mounting calls for curbs to be imposed on oil and gas activity on environmental grounds.

The former Oil and Gas Authority said that that decarbonisation of oil and gas operations was an industry imperative and platform electrification from renewable sources would be an effective way to achieve that. The OGA was renamed the North Sea Transition Authority in March.

Industry leaders reckon the fallout from the war in Ukraine has demonstrated the value of the North Sea’s oil and gas resources as the UK aims to reduce its reliance on imports.

In the Energy Security Strategy published in April the Westminster Government said the UK needed to give the energy fields of the North Sea a new lease of life.

Orcadian’s project would involve connecting nine Central North Sea platforms to networks that would include floating windfarms and batteries, along with some gas-fired generating capacity, which it said could provide power during the 10- 15% of time when wind power is completely unavailable.

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The company said the project could be operational by the beginning of 2027, adding: “We would need to have the whole-hearted support of the operators to firstly define the project and secondly to enable the financing of the project, as soon as possible.”

Orcadian’s partners in the project include oil services giant Petrofac and the Crondall Energy consultancy. Orcadian won £466,000 funding in the OGA’s £1 million decarbonisation competition. Orsted and Katoni Engineering won £239,000 and £335,000 respectively.