The North Sea oil and gas industry is on track to meet early emissions reduction targets after posting cuts of more than a fifth between 2018-21, according to new analysis from the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA).
The NSTA’s latest Emissions Monitoring Report shows that greenhouse gas emissions were cut by an estimated 14.6% to 14.3 million tonnes of CO2e last year, adding up to an overall reduction of 21.5% since 2018.
Emissions are a by-product of extracting oil and gas, but industry is working hard to reduce them by investing in more energy-efficient equipment and technologies which minimize flaring. This action, backed by NSTA regulation, a reduction in offshore activity amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the permanent shutdown of several platforms with high emissions contributed to the decreases recorded in recent years.
The large number of platform maintenance shutdowns, timed to coincide with temporary pipeline closures, contributed to a substantial fall in production and associated emissions last year. NSTA projections indicate the sector is on track to meet interim emissions reduction targets – of 10% by 2025 and 25% by 2027 – which were agreed in the North Sea Transition Deal (NSTD) between the sector and UK government in 2021.
However, the NSTA said that “bold measures” will be needed to hit the 2030 goal of halving emissions. This includes upgrading platforms to run on clean electricity, instead of gas or diesel – at least two electrification projects should be commissioned by 2027.
The NSTA said it will continue driving further reductions by “robustly managing performance, including through the annual stewardship survey, monitoring and benchmarking, tier reviews and publishing new and updated guidance.” In the first half of 2021, it started requiring licensees to implement emissions reduction plans for new and existing projects and introduced tough new guidance to clamp down on flaring, the source of more than a fifth of UK Coninental Shelf (UKCS) emissions, and venting. Offshore flared volumes have fallen by 20% in 2021 and venting by 22% that same year.
Dr Andy Samuel, NSTA Chief Executive, said:
“The industry has made impressive progress on reducing emissions during a turbulent period marked by a global pandemic and unprecedented price volatility,” said Andy Samuel, NSTA Chief Executive. “Energy security is more sharply in focus than ever and the NSTA is working closely with industry and government to bring new oil and gas projects online and bolster UK energy supply. This vital work sits alongside emissions reduction goals. The NSTA will continue to hold industry to account to make sure it delivers on, and surpasses, its targets.”