The Oil & Gas Technology Centre is planning to set up a Net Zero Solution Centre with a view to making the UK Continental Shelf the first net zero oil & gas basin globally.
Moreover, it is intended to dovetail with the industry’s Roadmap 2035 initiative.
Will ambition deliver on the dream?
Only time will tell but no-one in the North Sea oil & gas industry, nor at the regulator or in government must underestimate how high the bar must be set, therefore the scale of the challenge or commitment required, how much it could cost in financial terms and what the staggering cost failure would inflict on the environment.
It would be easy to carp about the almost chutzpah of the OGTC’s leader Colette Cohen to even contemplate something so bold and to stand up before an audience at this year’s Offshore Europe and explain why.
Some might even think laughable the very idea of the oil & gas industry believing it can achieve net zero environment impact when producing what a growing number of people regard as ultimate pariah resources whilst driving their 4x4s and pursuing a high consumption lifestyle.
Notwithstanding the carbon intensity of its downstream products, the upstream industry absolutely has to dramatically shrink its global environmental footprint.
Sadly, out with the North Sea, little effort is being made in that direction, least of all in the Alberta oil sands and US shale gas industries, not forgetting the Middle East where the agendas pursued are very different.
I’m glad that this year’s Offshore Europe is the forum for serious discussion on environment and climate like never before – at least in Aberdeen – as in my opinion, spiritual sister Offshore Northern Seas has always done a far better job in this regard.
I listened to OE chairman Michael Borrell’s opening address for a while and was encouraged when he said it was better that the industry become a part of the climate change solution rather than a problem.
He is of course right, but only in a narrow sense. The resources it pursues and produces are a massive reason why this pale blue dot called Earth is in the mess that it is today.
And quite how the human species will get around that one is the big question as there are currently no credible, low carbon alternatives waiting in the wings to take over or even in development, with the exception of renewables-based electricity generation displacing natural gas, not least in the home.
This particular push is well advanced in a number of EU member states and even the UK is a participant. In the UK, the late 1960s into 70s saw a revolution in the home with the widespread installation of gas in the kitchen and for central heating.
Today, the days of gas are numbered; it is to be banned from new homes build from the mid 2020s-on.
Borrell talked about the industry’s need to earn its licence to operate, to be trusted and trustworthy, to embrace the climate change crisis and get motoring with the Great Energy Transition.
And of course, bosses like Borrell, Phil Kirk and all the others gathered at Offshore Europe this week very well know they’re not just being watched by NGOs and the like; insurers, pension funds, hedge funds and other big City institutions. Even private equity has Big Oil in its sights with warning shots already fired in the direction of companies like BP and Shell.
The bosses will no longer be allowed to get away with fine words and the environment go quietly hang. There has to be action, which is why I’m prepared to applaud OGTC and OGUK for attempting to grasp the “net zero” nettle.