Illustration; Source: Offshore Energies UK (OEUK)

With UK’s oil & gas industry on decarbonisation quest, more investment needed to tackle challenges ahead

The UK’s representative body for the offshore energy industry, Offshore Energies UK (OEUK), has welcomed the progress the oil and gas industry made in curbing emissions. As further efforts will be required to meet Britain’s mid-term and net-zero aspirations, OEUK calls for more investment in the sector and an energy policy that will support the activities and solutions needed to bring these emissions reduction targets to life.

Illustration; Source: Offshore Energies UK (OEUK)

The UK’s oil and gas industry is working on delivering its emissions goal, however, more challenges lie ahead, which is why the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) is adamant that “bold measures” will be needed to hit the key target of halving emissions by 2030 and to reach net-zero by 2050. The regulator’s recent figures show that UK North Sea emissions are down three years in a row.

Last year’s 3 per cent reduction contributed to a 23 per cent drop in greenhouse gas emissions between 2018 and 2022. These reductions are in line with the oil and gas sector’s ambitious commitments under the North Sea Transition Deal, in which the industry committed to reduce emissions by 10 per cent by 2025, 25 per cent by 2027, 50 per cent by 2030, and achieve net-zero in 2050.

Mike Tholen, OEUK sustainability and policy director, commented: “By the mid-2030s, oil and gas will still provide 50 per cent of our energy needs. Putin’s war in Ukraine has shown the risk of relying on other countries for energy, and domestic production on average is four times cleaner than imported LNG. The UK’s homes and businesses cannot yet do without these fuels.

“That is why it’s vital our North Sea reserves are produced as sustainably as possible, so we can continue to protect the nation’s energy security while reducing our carbon footprint and building the low-carbon energies of the future.”

As most of the oil and gas sector’s emissions come from generating the energy needed to power offshore installations – including safety systems, plus electricity and heat for the workforce – OEUK believes that electrification, where installations are powered by electricity from renewables instead of oil and gas, will be “a key factor” in reducing such emissions. Offshore Energies UK also highlights that operational changes made by companies so far enabled the industry to surpass its 2025 emissions target three years earlier than expected.

“The emissions progress announced today is a clear indicator that the UK offshore oil and gas industry is committed to its mission, already surpassing its 2025 goal of a 10 per cent reduction. But this is the decade of delivery, not complacency. Our challenge now is to ensure the energy sector receives enough investment and the right long-term energy policy to significantly scale up the solutions needed to meet the real challenge ahead; halving emissions by 2030 and achieving net-zero by 2050,” added Tholen.

Furthermore, OEUK has encouraged UK politicians and policymakers to learn more about how its homegrown sector can help tackle key challenges facing the country, as long-term signals from politicians remain a key factor in the consideration of any activity by companies looking to invest in UK energy production.

David Whitehouse, OEUK chief executive, remarked: “We must re-frame our national debate about energy from what we just stop to what we must start. I hope politicians and policymakers take the opportunity to hear first-hand from companies pioneering the technologies and collaborative approaches which can help tackle national challenges securing affordable, reliable and increasingly low-carbon energy. The UK’s offshore energy sector is expanding its skills and has plans and solutions which can deliver this shared future at pace.

“Later this week our Economic Report will set out in detail how the government can make the most of its domestic talent to produce energy which grows the economy, supports jobs, and cuts emissions in the UK for the UK.”

The UK is in the process of mulling over whether to head for the exit from a multilateral energy treaty – known as the Energy Charter Treaty – if a much stronger focus on promoting clean, affordable energy, such as carbon capture, utilisation and storage as well as hydrogen and other renewables, are not incorporated within the treaty’s framework.

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Many are demanding an immediate withdrawal from what they see as a “climate-wrecking” energy treaty, as eleven countries including Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Ireland have decided to exit the treaty, with the European Commission proposing a coordinated EU withdrawal in July.

In line with this, a new UK poll was conducted between 25 and 26 August 2023 by Yonder Consulting on behalf of Global Justice Now. The results show that less than one in ten (9 per cent) believe Britain should remain in the Energy Charter Treaty.