The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) has published its inaugural Emissions Monitoring Report, which shows the UK upstream oil and gas industry must go much further and faster in its drive to cut emissions.
This new annual report is part of the OGA’s efforts to monitor, benchmark and hold the industry to account on emissions, in support of the UK’s target of reaching net zero by 2050. It will help to chart the industry’s progress in delivering commitments made in the North Sea Transition Deal (NSTD) between government and industry in March 2021.
The first of its kind for a G7 country, the NSTD committed industry to emissions reductions from offshore production of 10% by 2025; 25% by 2027; and 50% by 2030, against a 2018 baseline, on the pathway to net zero by mid-century.
Achieving the NSTD targets is the absolute minimum the OGA expects from industry.
The early goals appear to be within reach, according to the report, which presents data on emissions reductions, flaring and venting, carbon intensity, and international comparisons.
Overall upstream greenhouse gas emissions fell by 11% between 2018 and 2020 due to proactive abatement initiatives, supported by OGA stewardship, a decrease in offshore activity, and the permanent shutdown of several high emitters.
Two-thirds of offshore installations decreased their emissions between 2019 and 2020, by 36% on average, and offshore flare volumes fell by 23% last year.
While good progress has been made, 2020 was an unusual year for offshore operations as companies grappled with the twin challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic and lower commodity prices so continued decreases will require every effort.
The report also indicates the sector faces a major challenge if it is to meet and go beyond the 2030 goal of halving emissions.
A range of approaches will be required, such as the delivery of platform electrification, further reductions in flaring and venting, retrofitting platforms with more energy efficient equipment, progressing CCS projects, integration with hydrogen and more efficient operations.
The OGA will continue to drive industry’s performance improvements through the annual stewardship survey, performance benchmarking and detailed tier reviews, and hold industry accountable for emissions reductions through our stewardship and regulatory approach.
In line with the OGA’s recently revised strategy, which obliges industry to support the UK’s net zero target, a new net-zero stewardship expectation and updated guidance on flaring and venting and field development have been introduced.
In 2021 to date, OGA interventions have helped the industry avoid producing 993,000 tonnes of lifetime CO2e – the same as taking more than 500,000 cars off the road for a year.
“Effective monitoring and benchmarking of emissions, along with our proactive stewardship, is ensuring the sector plays its full part in the energy transition. Our report makes clear that, despite positive early signs, a laser focus on further emissions reductions is required. Falling short isn’t an option if the sector wants to retain its social license to operate,” said Andy Samuel, OGA Chief Executive.