Net zero North Sea ‘could create 200,000 jobs’

Colette Cohen, CEO of the OGCT

Consultants Wood Mackenzie on Wednesday published a comprehensive roadmap for the North Sea’s future to the Oil & Gas Technology Centre (OGTC) in Aberdeen.

The plan sets out the critical technologies needed “to deliver an integrated net zero energy system” on the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS).

“Delivering a tech-enabled integrated net zero energy future will cost £430 billion but generate more than £2.5 trillion in economic impact to the UK economy,” said Wood Mackenzie.

The report also shows how adopting new technologies “will harness the full potential of the UK’s world-class natural resources from renewable power sources and oil and gas, to hydrogen and long-term carbon storage.”

It said maximising the opportunities to innovate across the renewable and fossil fuel sectors “could create more than 200,000 new jobs across the UK and contribute more than £2.5 trillion to the nation’s economy by 2050.”

It would also create a diversified energy sector, support a new generation of highly-skilled jobs and open up export potential.

Malcolm Forbes-Cable, vice president, upstream consulting at Wood Mackenzie, said: “Just as the UK was a world-leader in the development of offshore oil and gas, it now has the unique opportunity to spearhead the offshore sector’s transition to a net zero energy system.”

The report said the oil and gas sector, including its workforce, supply chain and infrastructure, can enable and further speed up the growth of the renewables sector, while renewable energy sources will be critical in supporting the oil and gas industry on its move to net zero.

“Realising this integrated vision will require £430 billion of new investment to close the gap on a number of crucial technologies and accelerate their deployment,” said the report.

Forbes-Cable said: “The North Sea is at the heart of the UK economy. This won’t change, but our energy eco-system will.

“This report underlines how the UKCS can be redeveloped into a decarbonised, integrated energy system; one that can optimise the offshore sector’s economic value and deliver a secure supply of affordable energy.

“Hydrogen, for example, can be used in place of gas to heat homes and power engines and industrial processes, while reducing our carbon footprint.

“The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has set significant targets for a low-carbon hydrogen economy in the UK, but production remains close to non-existent. There are key technology challenges to overcome before hydrogen can be deployed on a vast scale.”

Colette Cohen, CEO at OGTC, said: “Reimagining the North Sea as an integrated energy system is essential for the UK and Scotland to achieve their net zero ambitions.

“But we need to invest now to close the gap on the key technologies needed to make this ambition a reality.

“We need to digitise our offshore energy sector and solve big challenges like energy storage, infrastructure redeployment, transmission systems and cost-competitive floating wind structures.

“By doing this, we can create strategic advantage and valuable export opportunities.”

She added: “With its decades of energy expertise, the UK has a huge opportunity to become a leading manufacturer, designer, installer and operator of net zero energy systems.

“Leveraging our strength in oil and gas, we can also partner with the renewables sector to accelerate the delivery of the next generation of energy in the UK – and internationally.

“This is where governments and industry should focus investment at pace in the coming years.”