November 24, 2023 [Upstream]- The North Sea requires approximately 100 reservoirs, more than 7500 kilometres of new pipelines and numerous onshore emissions capturing and gathering sites to achieve its targeted scale of carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) by 2050.
These CCUS projects call for making the most of existing synergies with the offshore oil and gas industry and reusing miles of existing pipelines that might otherwise need to be removed from the North Sea.
According to a recent report from energy consultancy Xodus, the volume of CO2 injected into the North Sea by 2050 is projected to equal the amount of natural gas currently being produced from the basin.
James McAreavey, head of CCUS at Xodus said: “As the transition progresses, it is inevitable that CCUS projects will be competing for seabed area with other low carbon technologies, but that could drive collaboration between industries and lead to the creation of a basin-wide integrated energy system.”
Xodus chief executive Steve Swindell emphasised the North Sea’s well-established oil and gas industry as being an ideal foundation for the implementation of carbon capture technology.
He noted the potential to repurpose and build around existing infrastructure but highlighted the uncertainties surrounding the timing, volume and optimal locations for locking away emissions.
Looking ahead, Xodus anticipates the operation of eight CCUS projects in Europe by the end of the decade, including the Northern Lights project in Norway.
This progression marks a pivotal phase in Europe’s pursuit of CCS, positioning the region at the forefront of sustainable and innovative energy solutions.
Xodus’ work also found that, with the right approach, between 50% and 70% of North Sea CO2 storage could reuse existing infrastructure, delivering significant cost savings and environmental benefits.
The report, developed in collaboration with Subsea7, evaluated 560 potential storage sites, existing North Sea gas pipelines and potential new infrastructure to assess the cost efficiency of various CCUS initiatives.
The North Sea constitutes a critical strategic advantage for Europe, given that approximately 40% of the region’s industrial emissions are generated within 500 kilometres of the basin.
This geographical proximity contributes to reducing the cost of developing CCUS projects.
Xodus forecasts that in the next decade, up to 100% of European CCUS projects will be concentrated in the North Sea, with an expected gradual reduction over time. In a high-case scenario for emissions reduction, the North Sea could capture a 60% market share of a 500 megatonnes per annum market by 2050.
The report also outlined that emissions can be transported through vessels and long-distance pipelines, with various determining factors including transportation costs, competition among storage sites and societal attitudes toward onshore storage.
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