Oil and gas industry publishes blueprint for net zero
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The oil and gas sector has outlined how it can play a vital role in helping Scottish and UK governments meet strict net-zero emissions targets.
The offshore industry published its Roadmap to 2035: A Blueprint for Net-zero, which it describes as "an ambitious blueprint showing what the sector could look like in future".
But environmental campaigners hit back, saying that fossil fuels should be left in the ground.
The roadmap is one of the first major industrial responses to government plans to reduce or offset carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 in the UK and 2045 in Scotland.
It includes co-ordinating activities to reduce emissions from the production of oil and gas, which currently accounts for three per cent of UK total greenhouse gas emissions, and understanding how the UK oil and gas industry can play a key role in developing and commercialising low-carbon technologies including Carbon Capture Usage and Storage and hydrogen.
The roadmap is the centrepiece of a flagship report published by the leading representative body for the industry, Oil and Gas UK.
OGUK’s Economic Report 2019 shows how the sector can contribute to the transition towards net zero emissions but points out that the independent Committee on Climate Change forecasts that the UK will still consume around 65 million tonnes of oil equivalent per year (roughly 45 per cent of current demand) in 2050.
It argues that means new fields should be developed at the same time as pursuing the use of new technologies such as carbon capture and hydrogen.
OGUK chief executive Deirdre Michie said: “Roadmap 2035 shows an industry in action with a credible plan for the future. While we don’t have all the answers to the big challenges we face, we have started work on what we know can be done. We are ready to work with others in developing some of the new solutions the UK needs.
“We now need a comprehensive UK energy strategy which recognises the continued role of oil and gas in a diverse energy mix and positions us to support net zero.
“Our Economic Report 2019 shows we are already playing an active role in the transition to a more diverse energy mix, with many of our members investing in renewables, developing new technologies and bringing new solutions to market.
“Roadmap to 2035 offers a blueprint for how we can continue to meet much of the UK’s oil and gas needs from domestic resources, progressively reduce associated production emissions and develop economy-wide decarbonisation technologies. With 40,000 new people needed in our industry, a quarter of whom will be in roles which don’t currently exist, it is an industry with an exciting future.
“It’s why we must continue to focus on improving the sustainability of the basin. This sector has seen a remarkable turnaround from one of the harshest declines in memory. However, significant parts of the supply chain remain in a fragile condition.
“Our Economic Report 2019 shows a greater proportion of UK demand being met from domestic production, exploration and drilling activity on the increase and a continued pipeline of new projects emerging. We need to build on this investment to encourage new fields to be developed to replace those coming to the end of their life. This will ensure as much as possible of UK demand is met from our own resources.”
But Friends of the Earth Scotland climate campaigner Caroline Rance branded the industry's vision "a disgrace" and said that change needed to happen much faster.
“Fossil fuel companies are cynically adopting the language of climate action but behind their spin they fully intend to still be pumping over one million barrels of oil and gas every day in 2035," she said.
“There is no such thing as a sustainable oil industry. In the midst of a climate crisis, everyone knows that fossil fuels must be kept in the ground.
“It defies logic that the Scottish Government would do so much to urge individuals to reduce their emissions from burning fossil fuels in our homes and vehicles, while simultaneously encouraging ever more drilling for fossil fuels in the North Sea.
“Instead of continuing to waste millions of pounds of public money into prolonging the life of this climate-wrecking industry, support should be redirected to rapidly developing renewable energy alternatives, ensuring decent green jobs are created here in Scotland and enabling a just transition for communities and workers.”
The industry, however, wants to see UK demand met from the North Sea, rather than further afield. It cites "continued collaboration between industry, government and regulators" which will be required to maintain the competitiveness and sustainability of the basin "so that as much as possible of UK demand is met from our own resources rather than imports, in parallel with efforts across all industries to reduce emissions".
Scottish energy minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “I welcome the Roadmap to 2035 as it marks a significant move by the industry to reflect the need to make the energy transition a reality. The sector can and has committed to helping Scotland and the UK achieve net zero, working with both governments, as well as industries and communities to transform our energy system.
“We are committed to achieving a net-zero economy in a way that is fair for all and to ensure a just transition. The oil and gas sector can and will, I believe, play a positive role in this transition, helping to channel its resources and innovative supply chain to design the diverse energy system we need for the future.
"The industry’s Vision 2035 can be a blueprint to deliver net zero and a sustainable future for the sector. The knowledge, skills and experience of the workforce will also be of vital importance for developing and investing in low-carbon technologies, such as Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage, hydrogen and floating offshore wind projects.”