Earlier this month, energy leaders from across the world descended on Stavanger, Norway, for the annual Offshore Northern Seas (ONS) conference.
The focus of this year’s event was clear: how we can accelerate Europe’s transition to a low-carbon future while at the same time ensuring a reliable and affordable energy supply.
The North Sea has a crucial role to play in solving this predicament. Its oil and gas reserves have been integral to Europe’s economic growth and development for decades. Now the region is poised to take a leading role in the Energy Transition by serving as a testing ground for new technologies and concepts related to offshore wind, electrification, carbon, capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS), hydrogen, and many others.
Even with hydrocarbons making up a sizable portion of its energy mix, the North Sea has the potential to become Europe’s largest climate-neutral energy system by 2050. But we need to act boldly and decisively to make this a reality.
Driving the transformation will be a monumental undertaking that will require a massive investment and profoundly impact carbon-emitting industries, including oil and gas. In Norway, for example, many aging offshore fields are at risk of being phased out in the coming years if they cannot sufficiently reduce their carbon footprint.
Fortunately, the technologies needed to decarbonize offshore production are available today. The challenge, however, lies in execution.
While the specific mix of energy sources and technologies that will be needed to achieve net-zero by 2050 (and the pace at which to deploy them) is a question that is open for discussion, one tenet is irrefutable: we cannot do it alone. Collaboration and strong partnerships that use each respective party’s resources and experience will be essential.
I had a fantastic experience visiting the Aker BP Ivar Aasen offshore platform during ONS. This project demonstrates an excellent example of how Siemens Energy’s Topsides 4.0 package of standardized electrical, instrumentation, control, and telecom (EICT) functionality aboard the platform is monitored and operated in real time from an onshore control room 1,000 km away.
Oil and gas operators possess the engineering and project management expertise to drive the development of an integrated, climate-neutral energy system in the North Sea. However, bringing down costs and expanding the range of business cases for novel technologies related to offshore wind, hydrogen, and CCUS will require extensive co-creation across the energy value chain. Therefore, we must look for ways to create synergies that enable us to go beyond our own capabilities by becoming more agile and cost-efficient.
The government also has a vital role to play by instituting policies that foster innovation and growth and by making long-term commitments that facilitate the development of critical infrastructure. By some estimates, the cost of the energy transition in Europe over the next three decades will exceed $5 trillion. This will require a mix of investment from both the public and private sectors.
There is no question the journey will be difficult. The transformation will create new dynamics across the region and abroad — with opportunities for some and concerns for others. However, by working together, I am confident we can overcome the challenges and ensure a sustainable, affordable, and reliable energy supply in Europe for many years to come.
THORBJOERN FORS is the EVP of Siemens Energy’s Industrial Applications division. Prior to this position, he served as CEO of the Service Distribution Generation and Oil and Gas business unit of Siemens. He also held EVP roles in the organization’s industrial power generation and compression business and within global marketing and sales of new equipment. Mr. Fors is a mechanical engineer with more than 25 years of international experience in business development, sales, operations, and leading global business units.