What does the “Green Industrial Revolution” mean for the Oil & Gas sector?
On 17th November, the Prime Minister announced the UK Government’s ten-point plan for a “Green Industrial Revolution” to tackle climate change and to create jobs.
The UK Government envisages that the £12 billion plan will create and support up to 250,000 green jobs. The ten-point plan will support the UK in meeting its legally binding target to create a carbon neutral economy by 2050.
The plan presents some great opportunities for Scotland, in particular the pledge to commit further investment into carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) and hydrogen production.
The “Green Industrial Revolution” Ten-Point Plan:
- Offshore wind - producing enough offshore wind to power every home, quadrupling how much we produce to 40GW by 2030, supporting up to 60,000 jobs.
- Hydrogen - working with industry aiming to generate 5GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030 for industry, transport, power and homes, and aiming to develop the first town heated entirely by hydrogen by the end of the decade.
- Nuclear - advancing nuclear as a clean energy source, across large scale nuclear and developing the next generation of small and advanced reactors, which could support 10,000 jobs.
- Electric vehicles - accelerating the transition to electric vehicles, and transforming national infrastructure to better support the technology.
- Public transport, cycling and walking - making cycling and walking more attractive ways to travel and investing in zero-emission public transport.
- Jet zero and greener maritime - research projects for zero-emission planes and ships.
- Homes and public buildings - making homes, schools and hospitals greener, warmer and more energy efficient, including a target to install 600,000 heat pumps every year by 2028.
- Carbon capture - becoming a world leader in technology to capture and store harmful emissions away from the atmosphere, with a target to remove 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2030.
- Nature - protecting and restoring the natural environment, including planting 30,000 hectares of trees every year.
- Innovation and finance - developing cutting edge technologies and making the City of London the global centre of green finance.
The UK Government has announced a further £200 million of investment to create two CCUS clusters by the mid 2020s and two further clusters by 2030. This announcement follows the Spring Budget 2020 in which the Government pledged to commit £800 million for CCUS projects.
The Acorn Project, led by Pale Blue Dot Energy, is a great example of how Scotland’s existing oil and gas infrastructure and depleted oil and gas reservoirs can be re-purposed for CCUS. Acorn will also convert natural gas into hydrogen (blue hydrogen), another key element of the ten-point plan.
Green hydrogen production
The UK Government has also pledged up to £500 million of investment into hydrogen, with £240 million earmarked for new hydrogen production facilities.
The selection of Aberdeen as the location for the pioneering Dolphyn project, the world’s first offshore floating facility to produce green hydrogen (hydrogen produced by the electrolysis of water using a renewable power source with no carbon emissions), demonstrates that Scotland is ideally positioned to dominate the developing hydrogen market.
The abundance of renewable energy resources (which are required for green hydrogen), the oil and gas industry’s highly skilled supply chain and the industry’s long history of supporting offshore projects means that Scotland is well-equipped to support this growth sector.
CCUS & hydrogen challenges
Despite the significant investment announced by the Prime Minister this week, there are still many challenges to be navigated as CCUS and hydrogen are very much in their infancy.
Issues still to be fleshed out include:
- ownership, financing and funding structures to underpin CCUS and hydrogen projects;
- identifying and preserving infrastructure required for CCUS;
- the interaction between the decommissioning regime for CCUS and the current oil and gas regime;
- the need for specific legislation in relation to hydrogen projects; and
- the desirability of CCUS and hydrogen each having a single regulatory body.
However, work is already underway, with the UK Government having recently published its response to a consultation launched last year on potential business models for CCUS.
It has also recently published a report on the re-use of existing oil and gas assets for CCUS projects, which has the potential to significantly reduce the cost of developing the infrastructure necessary to deploy CCUS at scale in the UK.
It is clear from the Government’s announcement that the deployment of CCUS and hydrogen projects are essential in meeting the net zero 2050 target - and the oil and gas industry and Scotland both have a significant role to play in the UK’s energy future.
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