OPIN­ION

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - ENERGY VOICE -

The Aberdeen-based Oil and Gas Tech­nol­ogy Cen­tre (OGTC) is set­ting up a unit called the Net Zero So­lu­tion Cen­tre with the aim of “ac­cel­er­at­ing tech­nolo­gies and their de­ploy­ment” and help­ing turn the UKCS into the world’s first net-zero car­bon basin.

It will be paid for with £50 mil­lion of in­dus­try and gov­ern­ment fund­ing over five years.

The new cen­tre will look at us­ing oil and gas in­fra­struc­ture to pro­duce hy­dro­gen and at pow­er­ing plat­forms and other in­fra­struc­ture us­ing re­new­able en­ergy, per­haps based on float­ing wind as the Nor­we­gian com­pany Equinor has pro­posed.

The Nor­we­gians did, af­ter all, pi­o­neer the de­vel­op­ment of that tech­nol­ogy.

OGTC also says it will be de­vel­op­ing tech­nolo­gies that “will con­trib­ute to the grow­ing de­mand for hy­dro­gen pro­duc­tion and car­bon se­ques­tra­tion”.

I find that in­trigu­ing, es­pe­cially given those tech­nolo­gies – which I’m sure can al­ways be im­proved – ex­ist al­ready, hav­ing been de­vel­oped some years ago. Not un­ex­pect­edly, though, most weren’t de­vel­oped in Scot­land or even in the UK, so per­haps they missed them.

An­other pro­posal is to use data anal­y­sis to help re­duce emis­sions and flar­ing. I’m sure some­one will ex­plain how that might work at a later stage.

What seems to be miss­ing though are any plans to deal with emis­sions from off­shore trans­porta­tion, no­tably he­li­copters and, of course, ship­ping.

The lat­ter, for­tu­nately, is be­ing worked on at a Euro­pean level and, once again, our Nor­we­gian chums are lead­ing the pack, build­ing hy­dro­gen­fuel-cell fer­ries and short-dis­tance freight car­ri­ers. The de­vel­op­ment of hy­dro­gen-pow­ered elec­tric-drive trains for air­craft is also on­go­ing and mak­ing con­sid­er­able progress. THE PRESS AND JOUR­NAL

This is an area in which we could do well, given Scot­land once had a thriv­ing, small air­craft in­dus­try.

Quite prob­a­bly, though, OGTC may not want to get in­volved in any of that be­cause with only £50m to spend, they will have to be a bit choosy, given the scale of the task.

You see the real prob­lem is that I’m told that the amount of car­bon diox­ide be­ing pro­duced off­shore on the UKCS is some­where around 3% of the en­tire UK to­tal.

This means that even if the OGTC pro­gramme is a rag­ing suc­cess, we would still have 97% of the prob­lem to deal with.

It oc­curs to me, then, that OGTC’s funds and ef­fort might be bet­ter off di­rected to­wards work­ing out how to deal with that 97%, es­pe­cially given that a large part of it will be the re­sult of burn­ing what the oil and gas in­dus­try is pro­duc­ing, not how it’s pro­duc­ing it.

I’ve al­ways be­lieved that Scot­land could pro­duce as much oil and gas as we want and for as long as it makes eco­nomic sense, pro­vided that we stop burn­ing it.

That surely is the big chal­lenge – keep­ing this in­dus­try go­ing with­out do­ing any more dam­age to the planet.

For OGTC and the in­dus­try, and in­deed gov­ern­ments, to try to shift the em­pha­sis away from deal­ing with burn­ing oil and gas to “look at us, we pro­duce oil and gas re­ally cleanly; we’re do­ing our bit” is quite pre­pos­ter­ous.

When I read that sci­en­tists at Cal­gary Uni­ver­sity’s chem­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing depart­ment had de­vel­oped a way of ex­tract­ing hy­dro­gen from oil by in­ject­ing oxy­gen into the reser­voir, I know these things are pos­si­ble. But then the Cana­di­ans are also a ma­jor man­u­fac­turer of fuel cells while we’re not. I won­der why.

If our in­dus­try and gov­ern­ment were al­ready fund­ing stuff like hy­dro­gen pro­duc­tion, car­bon cap­ture and util­i­sa­tion in a mean­ing­ful way and we could see light at the end of this aw­ful tun­nel, then turn­ing the UKCS into the world’s net zero car­bon oil and gas basin would be a real bonus. But they’re not.

Ian Wood re­cently hit out at “re­treat­ing oil in­vestors”. I im­me­di­ately thought, “I un­der­stand why they’re re­treat­ing and I agree with them”.

The ques­tion is: Why isn’t in­dus­try mak­ing a real ef­fort to sat­isfy in­vestors’ needs by shifting di­rec­tion, not by stop­ping oil and gas pro­duc­tion but mak­ing sure what they’re pro­duc­ing is as harm­less to the cli­mate as pos­si­ble?

So when your son or daugh­ter or in­deed your grand­chil­dren ask if you did ab­so­lutely ev­ery­thing to stop cli­mate change, wouldn’t it be bet­ter to say we de­vel­oped the means to stop oil and gas caus­ing cli­mate change rather than we pro­duced all that oil and gas in the clean­est way pos­si­ble, oh, but sorry about the planet?

Think on peo­ple. Think on and try to do the right thing. Spend that £50m wisely.

■ Dick Winch­ester is a mem­ber of the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment’s en­ergy ad­vi­sory board.

Cli­mate change needs to be tack­led for the ben­e­fit of fu­ture gen­er­a­tions

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