By Deirdre Michie

THE recent legal challenge brought against the UK Government over its continued support for oil and gas production in the North Sea has sparked new conversations around the industry’s impact on the Government’s stated goal of net zero emissions by 2050.

A common thread through these conversations is that oil and gas still provides three-quarters of the UK’s energy needs, with domestic production meeting 70 per cent of demand in 2020 alone. Considering this, it makes no sense to stop producing oil and gas at home and start importing it from projects abroad where we have no control over emissions.

That said, we recognise that the balance is changing and the industry is fully committed to the energy transition, working hard to make our operations greener and investing in new alternatives that will shape our energy future.

For many years the UK oil and gas industry has pioneered greener technology that enables the production of cheaper, cleaner and home-grown energy. The development of such technologies will be accelerated due to the recently-announced North Sea Transition Deal, which will help us to reduce carbon emissions even more quickly. This is just one reason why we believe the UK can set a world-leading example of how the transition can be delivered, all the while protecting jobs across the country.

Scotland is a key player here, and work is already under way to advance expertise in low-cost carbon capture and storage. This involves repurposing legacy oil and gas fields to capture and store carbon, offering vast potential for clean energy production. The Acorn project in St Fergus, Peterhead, is capturing carbon dioxide from an existing gas plant and using it to produce hydrogen, while the existing offshore pipeline infrastructure transports it to offshore carbon storage. There is also ScottishPower’s new green hydrogen scheme near Glasgow which aims to produce up to eight tonnes of hydrogen for the commercial market by 2023.

Scotland’s renewable energy goals are another part of this picture. In 2020, Scotland was able to generate 97.4% of its household electricity demand from renewable sources and, by 2030, the country is aiming for renewable energy to meet 50% of all demand across electricity, heat and transport.

While oil and gas will continue to be part of the mix as alternative energies achieve full scale, the industry is till supporting the development of renewables with investment and skills. Hywind Scotland, developed and owned by Equinor, is the world’s first floating wind farm that takes wind turbine technology one step further by removing the need for a fixed base, thus ending restrictions on water depth.

Each of these examples show how oil and gas-producing nations, like Scotland, can be part of the energy transition, set an example on a global stage, protect jobs and support communities. So, while we’re still using oil and gas for everyday essentials, let’s be accountable, let’s make it home-grown, and let’s show the world what’s possible.

Deirdre Michie OBE is Oil & Gas UK Chief Executive