But there is further work to be done to achieve the goal of halving emissions by 2030, the NSTA said.

By Joseph Murphy

Greenhouse gas emissions from offshore UK oil and gas production dropped for the third consecutive year in 2022, the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) reported on September 5, noting that this put the industry well on track to reach 2025 and 2027 targets it agreed with the government.

Emissions were cut by 3% last year, and an overall reduction of 23% has been achieved since 2018, according to the NSTA’s latest monitoring report. The industry committed to cutting emissions by 10% by 2025 and 25% by 2027 as part of the North Sea Transition Deal (NSTD) it agreed with the government in March 2021. In return for addressing its emissions, NSTD provides the industry with support to develop low-carbon technologies.

The reduction last year was achieved in spite of higher oil and gas production – which the NSTA had warned would result in emissions remaining flat or temporarily rising. It attributed the fall to efforts to minimise flaring and fuel-efficiency initiatives.

“For example, an operator replaced components in a gas export compressor, lowering fuel consumption by 18 tonnes per day and saving 20,000 tonnes of CO2e of emissions per annum,” the NSTA said.

The authority added that such measures not only supported the UK’s net-zero goals but also supported the country’s energy security by providing extra gas for use in homes and businesses.

The NSTA cautioned, however, that “bold measures will be required to hit the key target of halving emissions by 2030 – the absolute minimum the NSTA expects from industry.”

“Although the industry is making progress, there is more work to do. The industry needs to preserve its social licence to operate and the NSTA estimates that without further, sustained action, the sector will not meet the 2030 target of halving emissions,” it said.

Furthermore, the carbon footprint of UK gas may be nearly four times lower on average than imported LNG, but it is also twice as high as pipeline imports from Norway.

“The NSTA will continue to hold industry to account on emissions by monitoring, tracking and benchmarking operators’ performance, sharing best practice and pressing licensees for relentless progress on flaring reduction, fuel efficiency and platform electrification schemes,” the authority said.

As part of its revised strategy set out in 2021, the NSTA requires operators to develop action plans to reduce emissions at their facilities, and all new developments should involve no routine flaring and venting. There should be zero routine flaring at all North Sea platforms by the end of the decade.

This approach “is proving to be effective,” the NSTA said.

“There are some really positive findings to credit here including the year-on-year progress and active investment in new emissions reduction technology,” the NSTA’s director of strategy Hedvig Ljungerud commented on the latest report. “However, we can’t hide from the fact that there is more work to do. The NSTA will steadfastly hold the sector to account on emissions, including its pledge to halve emissions by 2030, which is the absolute minimum we expect.” 


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