Drive to net zero opens doors for pioneering Highlands and Islands supply chain
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Renewable energy will play a key role in future oil and gas activities, writes Gavin MacKay of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE)
As we move towards an economy based on net-zero emissions, low-carbon power supply alternatives will be central in cutting the energy sector’s own emissions.
Existing oil and gas facilities, including those nearing the end of their lifespan, must adapt to the demands of the low-carbon economy. So too, will the massive new developing fields west of Shetland.
Platforms, remote subsea infrastructure and wider operations including decommissioning, all need electricity supply. Offshore and floating wind as well as wave and tidal applications can offer cost-effective options.
The industry is already using wave energy devices to power remote oil well monitoring equipment. Wave and tidal energy will also soon be used to power subsea control systems.
This offers a new finance model and early route to market for wave and tidal applications.
Equinor, meanwhile, is preparing to use floating wind to power platforms in the Tampen field off Norway. This could be an industry template for expansion across northern European waters.
Integration and transition are key for the north of Scotland renewable energy sector and the next chapter of the oil and gas industry.
Business cases in oil and gas are often based on bespoke project-specific requirements. This could be an advantage for emerging technologies and crucially create a route to market through new commercial drivers.
Offshore wind can be the catalyst. The Beatrice wind farm showed what commitment, belief and motivation can achieve.
Floating applications can extend the benefits of next-generation industries into the ports and communities of the west coast as it is doing in the east.
What oil and gas and offshore did for the Inner Moray Firth region, floating wind can do for the islands and the north-west.
Beyond wind, the wave and tidal sector has come a long way and has much to offer.
Successful tidal deployments by companies such as Nova, Orbital and MeyGen are excellent examples.
So too is the work of Wave Energy Scotland, which is expected to progress towards deployment of scaled prototypes off Orkney in 2020.
This industry is ready for the next step. The technology will be proven and deployed at scale and provide huge opportunities to the supply chain, the wider economy and communities.
Our region’s supply chain, meanwhile, is embracing the low-carbon drive and ready to tackle this ‘big asks’ of the energy sector.
Whether it is offshore or floating wind, wave and tidal power or oil and gas, businesses have shown they can deliver effectively.
Many major companies are applying business know-how and operational experience in deep water and other challenging environments to the pursuit of next-generation opportunities.
Within six months of the launch of the DeepWind supply chain cluster, more than 200 companies had signed up.
This initiative is part of the UK Offshore Wind Sector Deal struck between the industry and government in March 2019.
Led by EDP Renewables, participants are examining the needs and potential of wind developments both fixed and floating in waters deeper than 40 metres.
Opportunities for the supply chain, innovative solutions and export potential are all in play in a cluster that includes companies such as SSE, Equinor, Vattenfall and Kincardine Offshore.
Results from the cluster effort will almost certainly feed into the realisation of Crown Estate Scotland’s leasing process ScotWind. This will kick off imminently and is expected to lead to a 9GW expansion of the sector towards the end of the next decade.
All of this activity is creating many new opportunities for companies to apply established and upcoming technologies. As regional development agency, we are supporting this transition.
As well as helping Scotland achieve its net-zero target by 2045, it will bring many benefits to the regional economy and to rural communities.