UK’s oil and gas sector promotes carbon capture as means to continue extraction

The UK’s offshore oil and gas industry has outlined how it intends to cut carbon emissions from its operations and has pushed for greater use of carbon capture technologies to offset emissions from its production.

In ‘Roadmap to 2035: A Blueprint for net-zero’, Oil & Gas UK (OGUK) sets out how the sector intends to adhere to Scotland’s net-zero carbon target.

The report shows 75 per cent of the UK’s current energy needs are met from oil and gas, with just over half (59 per cent) of oil and gas demand met by domestic production.

It highlights Climate Change Committee forecasts that the UK will still consume around 65 million tonnes of oil equivalent per year (roughly 45 per cent of current demand) in 2050, making carbon capture and development of hydrogen essential.

OGUK argues that it is “taking action to ensure that the UK Continental Shelf becomes a net-zero basin by 2050, by addressing the carbon footprint of its production operations” and set out a desire to develop and commercialise technology that could help reduce carbon emissions.

MPs recently warned that heavy industries in the UK could be forced to close unless the government embraces carbon capture. Despite initial enthusiasm for trials of the technology in power plants such as Drax, the government scaled back its ambitions due to the high cost of deployment.

But a report from last year found that the technology only has “limited realistic potential” to stymie climate change anyway and that focus should instead be directed at reducing greenhouse gas output altogether by leaving fossil fuels in the ground.

OGUK chief executive Deirdre Michie claimed the industry has a “credible plan for the future”. He said: “Roadmap 2035 offers a blueprint for how we can continue to meet much of the UK’s oil and gas needs from domestic resources, progressively reduce associated production emissions and develop economy-wide decarbonisation technologies.”

UK government minister Colin Clark said: “I am pleased to see the oil and gas industry publish their blueprint for net-zero.

“Scotland’s oil and gas sector will play a leading role in the UK government’s commitment to net-zero by 2050. Investing in new technologies like CCUS and hydrogen is key to unlocking the industry’s future and decarbonising the UK economy.

“Improving the sustainability of oil and gas in the North-East ensures the industry has years ahead of it, continuing to provide jobs and invest in Scotland’s economy.”

The Scottish Greens were critical of the report, especially its plans to maximize the extraction of fossil fuels.

The party’s energy spokesperson Mark Ruskell said: “The sector says it recognises the need to change, but this overt lobbying argues that maximum extraction of fossil fuels is compatible with tackling the climate emergency. The industry is putting its own interests ahead of our survival.

“Indeed, production in the North Sea has gone up this year, since the First Minister declared a climate emergency. It has gone up 20 per cent since 2014.

“In this plan, the industry has actually committed to keeping production above one million barrels of oil equivalent per day.

“The science cannot be any clearer on this. Fossil fuels must be left in the ground. We already have far more fossil fuel in existing reserves than we can afford to burn.”

Elsewhere OGUK addressed Brexit saying that the prospect of a no-deal “is not in the best interests of this industry, or the wider economy”.

“It is estimated that reverting to World Trade Organisation rules may cause the cost of trade for the oil and gas industry to increase by around £500m per year,” the report said, while even “minimal tariffs agreed in a deal with the EU could still cost the industry £100m annually”.

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