UK oil and gas industry outlines transition plans

Feb 02 2020


The leading representative body for the UK’s offshore oil and gas industry today outlined the details of its response to UK and Scottish Government net zero commitments in a keynote speech delivered by OGUK Chief Executive Deirdre Michie OBE.

Speaking to an audience of politicians, policymakers and campaign groups in Edinburgh, Deirdre Michie said:

Good afternoon everyone and thank you for coming today.

As we all know, our country and much of the world is currently engaged in an increasingly polarised debate about climate change,

It’s passionate, important and yes – urgent.

I’ve come to you today to say that the UK’s offshore oil and gas industry is not shying away from the climate conversation but embracing it,

More than this, I want to put forward our specific proposals for the transition to the lower carbon energy future we all want to see,

It was after all Abraham Lincoln who said the best way to predict the future is to create it,

So, I’m pleased you have all been able to join us and look forward to your thoughts and reflections,

Many of you will know that OGUK’s role is to inform, engage and champion the 400 plus members operating in the UK Continental Shelf – often referred to as the North Sea,

And while this term might be convenient it is actually incorrect as it ignores the East Irish Sea and the vast frontier region in the Atlantic Ocean west of Shetland,

It is a neat – if rather dull – illustration of the need for this technical and complex but critical industry to better inform the debate with facts and tangible examples,

Facts need to be the foundation of our understanding,

Because that is what will enable us to find solutions.

And before I go on, there should be no doubt: this industry isn’t talking about what is and isn’t climate change anymore.

The facts are that the climate is changing, and we must all change if we are to protect our planet for future generations,

It will require constructive, collective and coordinated action to decarbonise a largely fossil fuel-based society which has, in relatively few years, helped to dramatically improve the living standards, health outcomes and quality of life that many of us so freely enjoy today,

But we should also be clear that the need for change also comes at a time when global energy demand is forecast to grow by up to 30 percent by 2050.

And while all industries, businesses and people need to think about what they can each do,

Our industry needs to be generous in deploying our skills, infrastructure and expertise to help find those solutions.

And we are already stepping up to the challenge.

We are an industry capable of doing big things in remarkable ways,

A capability we can – and want to – apply to the climate change challenge.

Here in Scotland, and across the UK, this industry has and continues to sustain hundreds of thousands of jobs, currently over 270,000 as per our workforce report last year.

That’s about one in every 125 employed people in the UK, or 1 in 25 in Scotland.

We’ve contributed over £350bn in production taxes alone, and more from corporation tax and Pay As You Earn as well as billions of pounds in terms of capital spend and running costs invested over the years.

Importantly, this indigenous industry has supported an affordable and secure domestic supply of oil and gas, which remains fundamental to so many of the products and fuel that we need for our everyday lives.

While we continue to emerge from one of the toughest downturns in our history and are by no means out of the woods yet, with real pressures remaining on the supply chain, it is through this incredibly challenging time that we have demonstrated our ability to transform and adapt, delivering a reputation for efficiency and competitiveness,

Operating cost reductions are being sustained and expected to remain around $15-16 per barrel this year.

And we continue to deliver safely and efficiently the day job of exploring, developing, producing and decommissioning.

We are also in action in terms of responding to the challenges of climate change,

You only have to go to Orkney, Glasgow and here in Edinburgh and visit any of our members working in your community to know that this is a challenge we are taking seriously.

And I would encourage you to do this, and to see it first-hand, some of the great work that is going on.

Stepping up to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 in the UK and by 2045 in Scotland is also an opportunity for the UK’s oil and gas industry to shine in a competitive global market.

Sustaining jobs, contributing to public services through taxation, providing secure energy supply and diversifying as we help to find solutions.

The Scottish Government has made clear that it supports a sustainable, fair and inclusive transition,

And I know the UK Government is taking a similar approach,

These are important principles which say a lot about the kind of transition Scotland wants to see.

First – it means planning for a transition which ensures people in Scotland continue to enjoy affordable and low carbon energy,

Second – this transition will deliver opportunities for the people working in the industry today as it evolves in the coming decades,

Third – the transition must deliver sustainable and enduring change,

While I welcome calls to “do more” and at pace,

We now need to move the debate on from talking about the need to act, to demonstrating what we are doing to act,

We have a plan – Roadmap 2035 – which offers a blueprint for net zero,

It is one of the first industrial responses to the UK and Scottish governments net zero commitments.

It aims to enable a safe, sustainable and competitive oil and gas industry supporting the UK’s energy needs and its transition to a net zero future,

These aspects are not mutually exclusive but inextricably linked.

Developed through over 5000 engagements with a range of stakeholders, Roadmap 2035 has been welcomed by both governments and energy ministers.

It sets out 60 actions across five key areas,

And today I can confirm that OGUK has convened an industry-wide group of company leaders and young professionals to coordinate efforts, identify gaps and drive action in pursuit of what is a truly challenging task but also a transformational opportunity,

So, to the first group of actions – our support for net zero

We will do this by reducing emissions from the operational production of oil and gas,

And through supporting other heavy emitting sectors to achieve net zero through our skills, technologies and infrastructure,

But what does this mean?

Firstly – in terms of our own production emissions, we will be a net zero oil and gas basin by 2050,

Reducing emissions from 14 million tonnes – currently three percent of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions – to 0.5mt – in line with the Climate Change Committee outlook,

It will require significant investment, new technology and close working with the renewables sector in Scotland and across the UK

I’m pleased to announce that we are developing targets for emissions reduction, and we will soon publish a detailed action plan in support of this — this is an industry in action.

In December last year the OGA – our industry regulator – published the interim findings of the first phase of its Energy Integration Project,

Working with BEIS, the Crown Estate and Ofgem, this important report offers a good starting point as to how we begin to bring key carbon reduction concepts to life,

Reducing emissions on oil and gas installations by using low carbon electricity including directly from offshore wind farms to replace offshore power generation from gas and diesel,

It takes me on to our second net zero commitment.

We will support the development of CCUS and other low carbon tech at scale,

The Climate Change Committee estimates that up to 175m tonnes of C02 each year will need to be captured and stored in the UK by 2050.

And that’s even if the UK delivers against every cross-sectoral recommendation in their initial report,

Indeed – CCUS is required in all decarbonisation scenarios.

Globally, some 10,000 projects will be needed,

An industry forecast to be worth around £100bn each year by 2050,

This is not only a necessary technology to meet our climate goals, it is therefore also a potential opportunity for Scotland and a diversifying energy industry.

This sector stands ready to play its part.

Assisting in the development of the commercial business models that are needed to help deliver CCUS clusters, hydrogen opportunities and the decarbonisation of offshore platforms at scale,

We are putting forward our skills, capabilities, assets and knowledge,

And working with governments and regulators to clarify policies and regulations on CCUS and hydrogen,

including improving the understanding of what is required to repurpose existing oil and gas assets for use in the low carbon world,

The CCS charter signed between the Scottish Government and industry demonstrates our commitment,

We are looking to work with governments and regulators to progress the five CCUS projects across the UK which now need to move at pace into the next phase,

One of which is the North East’s £224m Acorn project.

Expected now to be operational by 2024,

And with the potential to store 16.2m tonnes of carbon per year,

It would be good progress, but still only a fraction of what is required.

And on hydrogen,

Much more will have to be done to explore the full opportunity of this potentially disruptive player in the clean energy mix,

Reports by Swansea and Keel Universities found up to 30 percent of the UK’s gas supply can be replaced with hydrogen without needing to modify people’s appliances,

With currently 75 percent of the UK’s heating demand in buildings being met by natural gas

It shows the scale of the opportunity,

And the analysis from the International Energy Agency showing that the cost of producing hydrogen from renewable electricity could fall 30% by 2030 as a result of declining costs of renewables and the scaling up of hydrogen production helps us to begin to see what a truly transitional and transformational approach could look like,

Blue hydrogen derived from gas will need to compete alongside green hydrogen made from renewables – but both will be needed if we are to match the energy needs I referenced earlier on,

So, combining with Carbon Capture and Storage, hydrogen from natural gas could cut emissions, alongside efforts to reduce the cost of producing hydrogen from clean energy,

You can see why it matters that we do this right,

The developing hydrogen economy could also bring far-reaching benefits across Scotland,

For example, in Orkney, where a consortium led by the OGTC alongside universities and oil companies are looking to create a test centre at Flotta oil terminal for trialling these different types of technologies for use on offshore platforms,

So today we urge the UK and Scottish governments to continue to think about the full system changes from the production of energy to its use in our homes and businesses,

To recognise that this industry can help provide solutions which unlock the inclusive, fair and sustainable transition we all want to see,

And we call for a comprehensive UK energy strategy from the UK Government, to be reflected in their imminent white paper.

The Committee on Climate Change report also recognised that by 2050, oil and gas will continue to form part of a diverse energy mix,

Albeit at lower levels, roughly about a third of what it is today,

That’s because the CCC forecast that oil and gas will still be needed by those sectors especially difficult to decarbonise,

Sectors such as heavy industry and aviation, and of course its continued use in many industrial and chemical processes,

Whether its pharmaceuticals, or in producing the composite materials which, used sustainably, will continue to be critical in our daily lives,

So, I also consider it’s important we deliver as much of this demand from domestic resources – a point I’ll come back to shortly.

Meeting net zero is only the first of five themes outlined in what you can see truly is a comprehensive roadmap,

With our 2nd theme of driving technology and innovation, we will spur a net zero technology revolution, adding some £10bn in economic value to the UK through technology and innovation,

Through work being championed by the OGTC, that has already launched a net zero solutions centre in support of this ambition,

And our 3rd theme, of developing people and skills,

By 2035 we will support some 130,000 jobs,

Compared to just over 150,000 direct and indirect jobs we support today,

This will actually require us to attract 40,000 new people, a quarter of whom will be in new roles, many of which don’t exist yet, to cater for technology developments as well as the expected natural attrition from the industry through retirement,

This is being driven by the industry skills body OPITO and their innovative work through the Energy Skills Alliance to support the development of a multi-skilled energy workforce that is flexible, dynamic and technologically enabled,

In growing the economy and exports, our 4th theme,

We’re looking to double exports from a diversifying energy sector to £20bn each year,

Working with governments to deepen our sector’s understanding of international markets and ensure our experience is utilised globally and in different sectors,

And those of you who joined the excellent cross-party group held with Scottish Renewables last week will have heard how diversification in the supply chain can open the door to more international opportunities,

The final theme is on meeting the UK’s need for energy and industrial products.

I spoke earlier about the requirement to meet as much of the UK’s energy needs from domestic resources, as per the CCC report and its focus on energy sovereignty,

And their forecast that during the transition and beyond, there remains a need for oil and gas.

Let’s be clear here – the premature shut down of this industry in the UK would do nothing to impact consumption,

Those needs would instead be met from increasing the amount of oil and gas imported from across the world,

But it would also mean we realise none of the benefits this indigenous industry brings in jobs, taxation and security of supply,

Nor would it enable control over environmental governance and standards.

So, what might seem an easy and quick fix, is instead simply shifting the problem to other countries.

Which is sometimes referred to as carbon offshoring,

This isn’t fair, inclusive or sustainable, it’s actually irresponsible.

It’s an example of a transition which helps get to the same destination, but at an unnecessary cost,

Leading to unintended consequences because the changes aren’t inclusive or supported by an effective, integrated and affordable energy system,

This is not the path we need to go down, and it’s why today we are coming to you with our plan,

Building on their contribution to this great industry, we can take Aberdeen, Glasgow, Shetland, Edinburgh and everywhere in between on the journey,

We can equip people with the skills and remove barriers so that they can enjoy rewarding energy careers for decades to come,

Meaning that by 2045 in Scotland –  we will have delivered a truly fair, inclusive and sustainable transition to a low carbon future where our transformed and thriving industry is part of the solution,

It’s an exciting proposition.

One which will underpin our calls for a transformational sector deal which we will look to announce later this year,

Which is why today my ask of you all is to consider the Roadmap,

To hear out the facts and then make your call as to the role of this industry going forward.

As we look to the future, I have no doubt that it will be our shared understanding, informed by facts,

And an inclusive approach, that will enable our delivery of the net zero challenge,

Yes, we need vigorous debate, but the so-called cancel culture Obama spoke about,

The culture which says the people in our industry don’t have the right to a voice,

Undermines the fundamental principles of the inclusive, fair and sustainable transition we all want to see.

We are here and we want to help,

And we want to be a positive force in this transition,

As Jonathan Foer notes in his excellent book ‘We are the Weather’,

Collective action is the best way to save our home and way of life.

So, let’s work together, because we can.

Oil and Gas UK
Roadmap 2035


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Issue 72 - Nov - Dec 2019

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