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UK’s offshore industry reduces GHG emissions for third consecutive year

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from UK offshore oil and gas production were cut for the third consecutive year in 2022 as industry continued its drive to reach net zero by 2050.

Last year’s estimated 3% reduction contributed to a 23% drop in greenhouse gas emissions between 2018 and 2022, according to the latest Emissions Monitoring Report from the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA).

This industry remains well on track to meet targets to cut emissions 10% by 2025 and 25% by 2027, as agreed in the North Sea Transition Deal (NSTD) with the UK government in March 2021. However, bold measures will be required to hit the key target of halving emissions by 2030.

The NSTA warned last year that unless industry took positive steps, a likely rise in oil and gas production in 2022 would cause emissions to remain flat or temporarily rise. However, industry investment in technologies that minimize flaring and fuel-efficiency initiatives meant emissions continued to fall, despite higher production than in 2021.

For example, an operator replaced components in a gas export compressor, lowering fuel consumption by 18 tonnes/day and saving 20,000 tonnes of CO2e of emissions per year.

Emissions decreased on 78% of offshore facilities between 2018 and 2022, in some cases through permanent shutdowns, but for 59% of those, through active emissions reduction initiatives.

These measures not only support the UK’s net zero goals – they also bolster energy security by saving gas that can be used to keep lights on, homes heated and businesses running.

While the carbon footprint of UK gas is on average almost four times lower than imported LNG, it is more than twice as large as pipeline imports from Norway, whose basin is similar to the UK Continental Shelf. The low carbon intensity of Norwegian gas should act as a spur to further clean-up UK production, the NSTA said.

After revising its strategy in 2021, the NSTA began requiring operators to develop Emissions Reduction Action Plans for their facilities and issued tougher guidance stating all new developments should have no routine flaring and venting, with zero routine flaring across all North Sea platforms by 2030.

“There are some really positive findings to credit here, including the year-on-year progress and active investment in new emissions reduction technology,” said Hedvig Ljungerud, NSTA Director of Strategy. “However, we can’t hide from the fact that there is more work to do. The NSTA will steadfastly hold the sector to account on emissions, including its pledge to halve emissions by 2030, which is the absolute minimum we expect.”

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