The climate emergency is an “even more pressing challenge” for the industry than the 2014 downturn according to the Oil and Gas Authority’s (OGA) chief executive.
However, after pulling though “one of the most severe downturns the industry has ever faced” Andy Samuel believes the UK sector is in a good position use those learnings for its next test.
He said: “I, and I think a lot of others, would argue with the climate emergency we’re facing an even more pressing challenge but again I think the same way of working that we developed through that downturn puts us in very good stead going forward.
“Very importantly, both the OGA and the industry haven’t just been sitting around, we’ve been in action on the energy transition.”
Since the OGA’s formation in 2015, the North Sea has improved production efficiency by 15%, cutting emissions by around six percent in the process.
This year the regulator will be working with industry on how best to “steward” a host of other measures like improving asset integrity, flaring and venting and optimising platform design to further cut carbon emissions.
Mr Samuel said he sees “no reason” why the OGA’s goal-setting measures which improved efficiency amid the downturn “won’t work equally well with carbon”.
He added: “While society needs oil and gas there’s every rationale in trying to produce it in the most low-carbon footprint way you can.
“I know already some companies are doing some very good work in this area.
“I think it needs to be talked about more, it needs to be shared more broadly and through the benchmarks we can then raise and level-up performance across the board.
“We try and have a privileged viewpoint. I tend to see a lot of what the operators are doing. I don’t think they’re doing a good enough job of sharing that message so that is number one.”
Last month the OGA published phase one of its energy integration report highlighting areas like hydrogen, electrification and carbon capture and storage that the regulator is working with other government bodies to help make more commercial and break policy barriers to do so.
Mr Samuel said low carbon solutions are “rapidly becoming mainstream” among a host of firms, with some smaller operators looking to design new infrastructure with reduced emissions while majors like BP, Shell and others are planning to power existing platforms in the Central North Sea from shore via subsea cables.
Demonstrable action is the answer to the industry’s critics, according to Mr Samuel, but doing so amid the “emotional” climate change debate requires rhetoric from its future leaders.
He added: “There’s a group called the Future Industry Leaders who we support who want to be part of the solution and want their voice to be heard.
“They’re passionate about net zero, about inclusion and diversity, about digital and they’re passionate about the oil and gas industry having a future.
“I think we need to tell those stories together and show that we’re forward-looking, it’s not just the old guard but very much the future leaders who are seeing the relevance of this industry and we need to find a way for them to be heard.”