UK Plans Electrification of Offshore Oil and Gas Platforms
Britain’s North Sea Transition Authority has chosen three electrification concepts for North Sea oil and gas platforms. These selected studies showcase innovative approaches prioritizing self-sustaining power systems driven by renewable sources, with the possibility of supplementary support from shore-based power cables rather than relying solely on shore power.
The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) in the United Kingdom has released the reports of the three winners of its Platform Electrification competition, initiated in September 2021.
Offshore platform near the U.K. Image used courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
This competition received £1 million ($1.22 million) in funding from the U.K. government as a key component of the North Sea Transition Deal, signed in 2021 by the government and the oil and gas sector. Under this agreement, the industry has committed to reducing its offshore emissions in the U.K. by 50 percent by 2030, a reduction of 2 to 3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually.
Electrifying Offshore Oil and Gas
Platform electrification is a strategy employed in the offshore oil and gas industry to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by supplying power to industry platforms.
The NSTA Electrification Competition was initiated to foster inventive electrification solutions by assisting oil and gas companies, wind power developers, and prominent technology suppliers.
The three winning studies collectively advocate for the merits of cross-industry collaboration, as electrification projects have the potential to unlock wind power opportunities in the range of 2-4 gigawatts across the U.K. Continental Shelf.
The three winners showcased ideas that eliminate the need for shore-based power, focusing on autonomous power systems powered by renewable sources, with the option of potential support from shore-based power cables.
All three studies propose that substantial emissions reductions of 78 to 87 percent are feasible.
Orcadian Energy Microgrid Concept
The study by Orcadian Energy—in partnership with Crondall, Enertechnos, NSMP, Petrofact, and Wärtsilä—proposes a microgrid concept that is a practical and dependable off-grid solution for powering North Sea platforms.
This system would derive power from floating offshore wind turbines, complemented by energy-efficient gas-powered generators equipped with substantial battery capacity to guarantee a stable energy supply.
An example of the proposed microgrid. Image used courtesy of Orcadian Energy
Floating distribution hubs would harness the wind turbines' energy and disperse it to multiple operators’ platforms via an intricate cable network.
Orcadian asserts that this approach is more efficient and cost-effective than conventional shore-based cable solutions, potentially facilitating earlier and more significant emissions reductions.
Emissions comparison for open-cycle gas turbines (OCGT), the UK Grid in 2021, and microgrids. Image used courtesy of Orcadian Energy
The proposal also contends that substantial reductions in future operational costs could support the sustained productivity of mature fields over prolonged periods while offering an additional incentive for developing satellite discoveries with minimized emissions.
The components of the microgrid are easily delivered to the deployment sites, and the core infrastructure has been purposefully designed for straightforward reusability.
Orcadian intends to engage multiple operators with a proposition to advance the electrification concept.
Project Neos—a study submitted by Ørsted, Neptune Energy, and Goal 7—is focused on electrifying offshore oil and gas facilities by harnessing renewable offshore wind energy.
This preliminary Front-End Engineering Design (pre-FEED) study explored the technical and commercial dimensions of establishing an electrical link between an offshore wind farm and an offshore oil and gas facility, all without needing a connection to the mainland.
Integrated energy hubs can merge various energy systems, encompassing current oil and gas production facilities, carbon storage infrastructure, and hydrogen production plants. These hubs could effectively prolong the operational lifespan of producing fields and bolster the financial justification for electrification through renewable energy sources to maintain reduced carbon emissions.
For Project Neos, two technical approaches were examined, involving the utilization of subsea cables and a comprehensive evaluation of power availability and reliability.
The collaborative effort also entailed an evaluation of the necessary design adjustments at the oil and gas facility, along with the considerations for implementing an offshore microgrid. This microgrid encompasses backup power generation, energy storage, and advanced control systems designed to transition from renewable energy sources to backup power seamlessly.
As part of this partnership, the companies will explore the feasibility of delivering renewable electricity from Ørsted's Hornsea offshore windfarm projects to energize forthcoming hubs operated by Neptune in the UK North Sea.
Katoni Engineering Offshore Distribution
The proposal from Katoni Engineering was an enhanced approach for connecting dispersed renewable energy sources to established offshore oil and gas facilities, ensuring a reliable supply of low-emission power.
The study devised an efficient offshore electricity distribution network, aiming to reduce the expense of adapting existing platforms, referred to as brownfield modifications. This approach focuses on delivering power at or near the existing voltage levels on the platforms, thus minimizing costs.
The network incorporates backup power generation on a floating electrical distribution hub to guarantee uninterrupted power supply within the off-grid electrical network scheme.
Katoni engineered the power distribution system using a clustering approach that can electrify approximately 20 platforms across a substantial portion of the central North Sea in the United Kingdom.