Traditionally oil and gas exploration operators and energy operators have little in common. But now in what is said to be a “unique collaboration”, the two sets of parties, along with others, have signed a manifesto to cooperate in the North Sea region.
The North Sea is an energy ‘hotspot’. It has become an important centre for fossil fuel production and generation and is now seeing growing potential for the development of renewables, especially offshore wind power. [Engerati-The North Sea – A Global Energy Hotspot]
“A year ago, the gas and wind industry were not considering integration, now they are talking about synergies,” commented René Peters, director Gas Technology at Dutch research institute TNO. “We are witnessing a paradigm shift. What we need to find out is how one can benefit from the other and develop new systems.”
North Sea energy development
There are two primary focuses for North Sea energy development.
One is around so-called ‘smart combinations’, in which new technologies such as power-to-gas and hydrogen storage and carbon capture and storage are brought in using decommissioned oil and gas wells, platforms and pipelines that otherwise would have to be removed.
The second is around developing a North Seas grid, which is seen as a key element in the development of a European Energy Union. [Engerati-North Seas Grid – Call To Action]
Just a week before the signing of the North Sea Energy Challenge manifesto, the political framework was put in place for cooperation in the region with the signing of a declaration and action plan. Signatories were ministers from nine North Sea region countries (Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden), Energy Union vice-president Maroš Šefčovič and Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Canete.
The objective of the declaration: “To facilitate the further cost-effective deployment of offshore renewable energy, in particular wind, through voluntary cooperation, with the aim of ensuring a sustainable, secure and affordable energy supply in the North Seas countries, thereby also facilitating further interconnection between North Seas countries …”
“Today marks a turning point in cooperation in the North Seas region,” said Canete at the signing. “We now have a concrete action plan that will deliver results.”
Work areas for the next 3 years include maritime spatial planning, development and regulation of offshore grids and other offshore infrastructure, and financing, standards, rules and regulations for offshore wind. Governance will be via a strengthened North Seas Countries’ Offshore Grid Initiative (NSCOGI).
North Sea combinations
The signing of the North Sea Energy Challenge manifesto by gas, wind and grid operators took place at the Gas meets Wind: North Sea Energy Symposium. The event was organized within the framework of the Dutch presidency of the European Union.
According to Giles Dickson, CEO of the industry association WindEurope, there are three challenges for the North Sea region: how to reduce CO2 emissions, create a stable power grid and store energy. “This can be done by dismantling production platforms, using them for energy conversion and investing in a balanced energy grid. The construction of a large number of offshore wind farms starts in the foreseeable future. To make this transition possible and affordable, offshore wind and gas operators can work together and integrate their systems. In the short term, this means that we have to explore possibilities of coordination in the conversion, storage and transport of energy.”
Ruud Bos, managing director of ENGIE, says the technology is there. “We need a pilot and must use the existing infrastructure, before it disappears.”
Under the manifesto a steering committee has been formed by Hans Timmers, president of the board of the Netherlands Wind Energy Association (NWEA), and Jo Peters, secretary general of the Netherlands Oil and Gas Exploration and Production Association (NOGEPA), together with environmental organization Stichting Natuur & Milieu, the TSO TenneT and TNO.
The steering committee will explore possibilities for joint coordination and cooperation. The focus will be on aligning related initiatives, such as the joint use of logistics and mobility and joint innovation. It also will set up joint research in areas such as the electrification of offshore platforms, system integration, power-to-gas, storage and E-grid.
The steering committee will work in close contact with the MVI-E Lab of the Dutch government’s Topsector Energie programme, in which stakeholders in the North Sea region, such as fisheries, navigation, ports, nature and agriculture, will participate.