Illustration; Source: Viaro Energy

Nuclear tech comes to oil & gas aid for ‘first time’ as decarbonization quest gains ground

While certain aspects of the oil and gas industry’s decarbonization mission are often seen as the energy transition’s low-hanging fruits, which get picked off first, the fossil fuels industry is also capable of undertaking major emission reduction feats by making use of carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) or electrification to slash emissions footprint. The London-based independent upstream player Viaro Energy has now set the wheels in motion to throw low-carbon nuclear technology into its oil and gas decarbonization mix.

Illustration; Source: Viaro Energy

To this end, Viaro Energy and newcleo, a clean nuclear technology developer, have established a strategic partnership and inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU) focused on the decarbonization of oil and gas infrastructure through the use of nuclear technology, which is centered around the future deployment of advanced modular reactors (AMR).

As this MoU outlines a framework for planned collaborative activities to decarbonize Viaro’s existing and future oil and gas infrastructure, newcleo is developing a lead-cooled fast reactor (LFR) technology, which is expected to be suitable for a wide range of locations due to its intrinsic safety and compact characteristics while also having the ability to be co-located with electro-intensive industries.

In addition, the LFRs will run on reprocessed spent fuel currently created by existing reactors. This is anticipated to curb the climate footprint of newcleo’s operations and close the fuel cycle, increase the useable energy from previously mined uranium, eliminate the need to extract and process new uranium resources, and reduce the stock of long-lived wastes.

Stefano Buono, newcleo’s Chairman and CEO, remarked: “This is an exciting partnership and demonstrates the potential for newcleo’s technology to support industrial decarbonisation. The transition to net-zero will only be achieved by decarbonising not only the energy, transport and heat sectors but also energy intensive and ‘hard to abate’ heavy industries.

“Our technology means that, for the first time, nuclear reactors will provide decentralised, baseload, low-carbon energy to customers with enhanced safety and security of supply. Viaro’s pragmatic and forward-looking approach will help them to blaze a trail towards lower-carbon operations in the oil and gas sector and we are delighted to be partnering with them and to provide energy solutions to make their aims a reality.”

Viaro Energy has built an extensive portfolio in the North Sea, with mostly non-operated interests in over 30 assets across the UK Central and Southern North Sea, the West of Shetland, and the Netherlands. With output up to 30,000 boepd per year, the firm has a medium-term production target of 100,000 boepd, and its upstream assets are held by its wholly-owned operating subsidiary, RockRose Energy.

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Once the completion of feasibility studies is out of the way, a joint venture will be established to deploy newcleo’s 200MWe LFR lead-cooled fast reactor at chosen sites within Viaro’s portfolio, assessing both existing assets and prospective acquisitions in which the UK firm is currently engaged. This technology is expected to contribute to net-zero goals by maximizing the benefits of AMRs for cogeneration, combined heat and power, and off-grid application.

Since the average life span of an LFR reactor is 60 years, after the decarbonization of Viaro’s hydrocarbon assets, the LFRs are anticipated to continue providing clean energy to Britain’s national electric grid and elsewhere across Europe where the technology is implemented. Aside from the MoU, the UK firm has also directly invested in newcleo by acquiring shares in its latest capital raise.

Francesco Mazzagatti, CEO of Viaro Energy, commented: “The partnership with newcleo is a major milestone in our strategy to exemplify the only economically viable approach to the energy transition by investing in both energy security and long-term net-zero goals. We are proud to spearhead decarbonisation efforts in the oil and gas sector through the implementation of newcleo’s clean nuclear energy technology into our operations.

“Stefano Buono and his team are true visionaries with decades of experience with nuclear energy, and we are confident in newcleo’s potential to pave the way towards a sustainable and affordable clean energy solution, as evident from its already numerous partnerships with the leaders and pioneers of each core industry segment. It is because of my belief in the concept and the team behind it that both Viaro and myself personally have also acquired shares in newcleo.”