The first attempt anywhere in the world to retrofit oil and gas infrastructure and switch to renewable fuel could lead to the North Sea industry’s carbon footprint being cut by 75 per cent.

A pilot scheme to demonstrate running a gas turbine on green methanol fuel will begin in Aberdeen today, which if scaled up, could significantly cut emissions for the North Sea offshore industry.

Green methanol has been seen as an alternative fuel for high-intensive industries such as the oil and gas sector and maritime shipping.

There are two variations under development, biomethanol, which is produced from the gasification of sustainable biomass sources, and e-methanol, produced from green hydrogen which is captured from splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, using a process called electrolysis.

The North Sea oil and gas sector has been urged to move faster in decarbonising its emissions.

Last month, a stark review by Tory MP Chris Skidmore, commissioned by the UK Government, called on the industry to clean up its operations after failing to commit to statutory adviser, the Climate Change Committee’s (CCC), target of reducing emissions by 68% by 2030.

Read more: North Sea oil and gas sector told to end routine flaring in two years

Instead, the industry has pledged to reduce emissions by just 50% by the end of the decade.

The pilot by the Net Zero Technology Centre and Siemens Energy aims to pilot and develop a cost-effective, retrofittable solution for existing gas turbines to help decarbonise the power generation sector across Scotland’s oil and gas operations.

If successful, the pilot paves the way for existing offshore assets to operate using low carbon fuels without extensive modifications.

Those behind the pilot claims that if adopted, this method will help the energy industry reach its net-zero targets and provide significant domestic and export potential.

The ETF alternative fuel gas turbine project is one of seven projects being delivered through the centre’s net zero technology transition programme (NZTTP), which was awarded £16.5 million from the Scottish Government’s energy transition fund to transform the North Sea energy system.

Read more: North Sea oil and gas sector could pay for net zero policies

Charlie Booth, project manager for the Net Zero Technology Centre, said: “The ETF alternative fuels gas turbine project identified green methanol as a strong contender for a clean, low-carbon transition fuel for offshore power generation.

“This pilot unit takes us one step closer to proving the viability of green methanol as a fuel for aero-derived turbines to reduce offshore emissions and strengthen the UK’s position as a leader in low energy systems.”

Steve Scrimshaw, vice president of Siemens Energy UK and Ireland, added: “The North Sea presents a sea of possibilities for the energy transition.

“By modernising existing assets and testing new technologies and fuels, we can transform the existing oil and gas sector whilst at the same time protecting and creating jobs.

“Building a fully renewable energy infrastructure will take time but this project shows that we can make immediate changes today that will significantly reduce emissions.”

Around 70% of emissions from North Sea oil and gas production come from powering platforms by either natural gas or diesel, with the next largest cause being flaring, at 22%.

The CCC has called for a 68% reduction in oil and gas emissions by 2030 from 2018 levels, but a 50% target was agreed by the industry and the UK Government.

Mr Skidmore pointed to several challenges of electrifying oil and gas infrastructure, making the case for green methanol more important.

In his review, he pointed to warnings from the industry that “the regulatory regime for platform electrification is currently too complex” adding that developers requiring different approvals from regulators is “slowing down deployment and making it hard to get electrification off the ground”.

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Mr Skidmore has also acknowledged that “access to grid connections is a huge challenge for the sector”.

Meanwhile, a consortium led by zero-emission vessel provider ACUA Ocean has won a multi-million pound UK Government grant in a major push to decarbonise the maritime sector.

The hydrogen innovation fund – future infrastructure and vessel evaluation and demonstration consortium – will receive more than £3.8m of funding to build and showcase its hydroge technologies.

The £5.4m project is expected to be delivered in autumn of 2024 and aims to establish a domestic green shipping corridor between Aberdeen and the Orkney and Shetland Islands, with hydrogen-powered autonomous ships being used to transport cargo.

Michael Tinmouth, COO of ACUA Ocean, said: “Delivering successful technology demonstrations is critical to de-risking future investment in maritime decarbonisation. This project brings together a consortium of innovative partners, subcontractors, and suppliers from across the maritime sector, who are all laser-focused on the need to reduce emissions and accelerate the adoption and commercialisation of new technologies.”

Marlene Mitchell, commercial manager of the Port of Aberdeen, added: “We are delighted to be part of this transformational project, which is wholly in alignment with our green ambitions and that of the wider project team.

“Zero-emission fuels and vessels are an essential element in achieving decarbonisation within the maritime sector and green shipping corridors will play a key element in meeting the sector’s goals.”