There is no disputing that collective and bold steps to protect our world are imperative, but energy security and climate action need not be a binary choice.
As the world ramps up renewable and low carbon energies to power our future we must plug the supply gap and reduce our reliance on imports which present a security challenge as much as an environmental and economic one.
The simple equation of supply and demand has sent commodity prices soaring. But steps can be taken, almost immediately, to drive a reduction in carbon emissions while simultaneously improving the efficiency and reliability of production. Leveraging smart maintenance technologies, implementing digital innovations, and applying decades of decarbonisation expertise turns this from ideological thinking into practical solutions that make a difference today.
As much as we need existing production to run smoother than ever before, we also need to maximize the potential of existing infrastructure to make it run longer.
The strategy highlights “maximizing North Sea production” as an important lever in ensuring energy independence and that “producing gas in the UK has a lower carbon footprint than imported from abroad” so we need to recognize the important role this domestic production will play in the shared quest for energy security and transition.
The North Sea Transition Authority advises there are more than 300 oil and gas ‘small pools’ in the UK North Sea. With higher commodity prices, small pools which were previously determined uneconomical, now stack up. With a stronger economics case, sanctioning these opportunities for development means we can increase the potential of existing assets by hooking up additional wells.
The increasingly polarizing debate regarding new oil and gas developments endures but, even by the most ambitious measures, oil and gas will feature as part of an integrated energy future for decades to come. Irrefutably, our world cannot afford new oil and gas developments without bullet-proof climate mitigation measures embedded from the outset.
We have a moral and ethical duty to ensure our future energies are developed with a carbon neutral, or even carbon negative, impact. The good news is we have the tools in our armory and the ambition to make homegrown, net-zero energy security possible.
The fresh commitments around offshore wind and hydrogen are fantastic news for our industry. As an island nation, the UK has enviable wind and tidal resources and, as we expand into deeper water through floating developments, we have the skills and experience to cement the UK’s position at the forefront of this sector.
The opportunity for all of us lies in delivering conventional energy as cleanly and efficiently as possible while we chart this path to newer, cleaner sources on an industrial scale. This is a necessary compromise, not a cop-out, and will help deliver a world where the energy trifecta of security, affordability and sustainability is a reality not an aspiration.
Craig Shanaghey is President of Operations – Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA) at the global consulting and engineering company, Wood.