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

“In the cen­tral North Sea there’s less ac­tiv­ity but the north­ern North Sea is get­ting busier. For ex­am­ple, we’ve seen the Brent Bravo top­sides com­ing into Teesside re­cently and Ninian North will be com­ing into Shet­land next year.”

How­ever, he agrees with Steven­son that suc­cess­ful sup­ply chain com­pa­nies have decommissi­oning as a part of their busi­ness, per­haps com­bined with late-life op­er­a­tions.

He points out that prepa­ra­tions for the end can start as much as a decade ahead of ces­sa­tion of pro­duc­tion.

Es­son said: “The in­ter­est­ing cross­over is now com­ing where we’re hav­ing the dis­cus­sion about net zero emis­sions and how we could po­ten­tially re-use some of these fa­cil­i­ties for car­bon cap­ture and stor­age (CCS) or hy­dro­gen pro­duc­tion or other re­pur­pos­ing of oil and gas fa­cil­i­ties.

“That’s re­ally start­ing to come at us quite sig­nif­i­cantly now and we’re go­ing to have to get af­ter that rea­son­ably quickly. Around 80% of the in­fra­struc­ture could be out of the North Sea in the next 10 years. If we’re go­ing to cap­i­talise on that we need to get mov­ing and de­velop op­tions at pace.”

Surely there’s a case for a more or less com­plete clear-out ahead of fu­ture long-term mar­itime en­ergy and car­bon stor­age ac­tiv­ity?

“That may turn out to be cor­rect,” Es­son said. “But it is in­cum­bent upon us to look at what those op­por­tu­ni­ties are and where we can use a cir­cu­lar econ­omy ap­proach to max­imise what we al­ready have out there.

“Can we re­use some of that to help re­duce the cost of the likes of CCS? The re­cent an­nounce­ment about re­pur­pos­ing the Ketch and Schooner plat­forms for off­shore wind sup­port in the South­ern Gas Basin is a good ex­am­ple.

“There have been a num­ber of pro­grammes, par­tic­u­larly on the Dutch side, over the last few months of small gas plat­form top­sides and jack­ets be­ing switched around to en­able re­pur­pos­ing.”

But how will decommissi­oning fit into the UKCS net zero com­mit­ment am­bi­tion pro­nounced at Off­shore Europe 2019? Af­ter all, decommissi­oning is a very in­ten­sive process. It’s about tak­ing big things out, chop­ping them up and re­cy­cling as much as is fea­si­ble.

Over to Tul­loch, whose role as Net Zero So­lu­tions Cen­tre (NZSC) man­ager is a new one: “We have four fo­cus ar­eas at the NZSC: Op­er­a­tional emis­sions and that’s 50 mega-tonnes per an­num at the mo­ment but re­duc­ing to net zero by 2050, plus off­shore wind, hy­dro­gen and CCS.

“Our short-term fo­cus is al­ways go­ing to be op­er­a­tional emis­sions as re­duc­ing these is es­sen­tial to main­tain­ing the li­cence to op­er­ate.

“There are a num­ber of quite straight­for­ward things that can be done on this front. In­creas­ing the ef­fi­ciency of gas tur­bines is prob­a­bly num­ber one. Around 75-80% of car­bon diox­ide pro­duced by the North Sea in­dus­try comes from power pro­vi­sion.”

This isn’t sur­pris­ing as much North Sea off­shore power gen­er­a­tion kit is based on de­signs like the Rolls Royce RB211 en­gine, which is rooted in the 1960s though con­sid­er­ably up­graded since the early days of the first RB21-24 in­dus­trial vari­ant emerged in 1974.

“They’re not as ef­fi­cient as new gen­er­a­tion en­gines, nor are they op­er­at­ing in op­ti­mal con­di­tions in many cases,” said Tul­loch.

“There’s a lot we can do to re­cover waste heat, for ex­am­ple. It’s the sim­plest thing to fo­cus on short-term by ap­ply­ing the Rank­ine cy­cle: a ther­mo­dy­namic cy­cle which con­verts heat into me­chan­i­cal en­ergy which usu­ally gets trans­formed into elec­tric­ity by elec­tri­cal gen­er­a­tion.

“Not only do heat recovery tech­nolo­gies make en­vi­ron­men­tal sense, they quite of­ten make com­mer­cial sense too. Rais­ing en­ergy ef­fi­ciency helps re­duce pro­duc­tion costs and cut car­bon emis­sions.

“We reckon we can re­duce 20-25% of op­er­a­tional emis­sions, just by mak­ing pro­duc­tion ef­fi­ciency im­prove­ments.

“There are a few op­er­a­tors that have teams work­ing on this at the mo­ment. If we can take best prac­tice from some of them and spread that across the basin, then that would be a great start.”

How­ever, in 2000 and in­flu­enced by Nor­way in this re­gard, BP pro­posed to power the For­ties field from the beach, which it then op­er­ated.

The scheme, the first phase of which was pre­dicted to come on stream in win­ter 2003-4, promised a big re­duc­tion in green­house gas emis­sions from For­ties as well as

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