Photo: Courtesy of NSTA

New tool to boost infrastructure repurposing for energy transition projects

North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) has developed a new screening tool to help maximise the repurposing of oil and gas infrastructure for energy transition projects.

It is believed that repurposing can make a huge contribution to the UK’s drive to net-zero, potentially generating multibillion-pound savings across carbon capture and storage (CCS) and hydrogen schemes which would otherwise require new equipment.

The NSTA’s initial analysis suggests that opportunities for repurposing platform topsides, jackets and subsea systems for decarbonisation projects are likely to be limited.

Removal and onshore dismantling, or cleaning up and leaving in-situ, will continue to be the right option for most infrastructure once production ends.

“Pipelines are the real prize, and they are being prioritised. NSTA analysis identified more than 100 which could be suitable for CCS or hydrogen projects. Finding a new life for just half of them would generate estimated savings of about £7 billion. Repurposing assets would also reduce decommissioning costs, which is good news for both industry and the Exchequer”, the regulator said.

According to the NSTA, operators with fields six years from cessation of production will be asked to use the new tool to identify which pieces of kit could be given a new lease of life.

This process adds structure and consistency to the assessment of North Sea repurposing potential, helping the industry capitalise on opportunities. In cases where there are no realistic alternatives, it will enable decommissioning work to progress without unnecessary delays, the NSTA explains.

The UK’s oil and gas regulator intends to initially send the tool to 20 companies operating a total of 120 fields which are nearing or have reached the end of their production lives and therefore, meet the criteria.

Then, their submissions will be reviewed and cross-checked against the NSTA’s data. The regulator will work with operators to explore options in detail and help overcome any barriers to repurposing.

The regulator added that the examples of multi-asset repurposing plans can already be found in the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS).

Italian oil and gas company Eni intends to reuse and repurpose existing pipelines and platforms for its Liverpool Bay CCS project, part of the HyNet CCS and hydrogen scheme.

Furthermore, the NSTA is also increasing the volume and quality of pipeline data it collects and intends to make as much information available as possible to stimulate repurposing projects.

It is said to be a part of the wealth of high-quality data and digital services provided to the industry by the NSTA to assist a range of UKCS operations, from exploration to decommissioning as well as the energy transition.

Last year, the new Decommissioning Strategy was published, which highlighted the importance of data transparency to help foster a competitive and sustainable decommissioning market. This was followed up with the Decommissioning Data Visibility Project, launched in November 2021 to give the supply chain a clearer picture of future activities.

“The NSTA is committed to supporting industry in embracing decommissioning and repurposing as vital tools in driving the UK’s energy transition”, said Pauline Innes, head of Decommissioning at the NSTA.

“Repurposing makes sound business sense from a cost perspective, and it’s also good from an environmental point of view – helping operators fulfil their North Sea Transition Deal pledges to lower emissions and guide the country to net zero.”

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