New consortium will use the North Sea to oil the wheels of decarbonisation
Hardly a week goes by at the moment without BP being involved in an environmental news item; this week is no exception. The erstwhile oil giant, recently rebranded as “an integrated energy company”, is part of a consortium of six energy companies aiming to develop the offshore infrastructure to transport and store millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions safely in the North Sea.
The consortium – BP, Italian state oil company Eni, Equinor, Shell, National Grid and the French energy company Total – will go under the name of the Northern Endurance Partnership (NEP). It will develop the infrastructure to serve the Zero Carbon Humber (ZCH) and Net Zero Teesside (NZT) projects to decarbonise one of the UK’s most industrialised regions.
The ambitious ZCH and NZT projects aim to be commissioned by 2026 with realistic pathways to reach net zero by 2030 by using carbon capture, fuel-switching and hydrogen.
NZT will involve the six NEP companies and plans to capture up to 10 million tonnes of CO2 emissions each year. This equates to the emissions associated with the annual energy use of up to 3 million homes in the UK.
The ZCH project involves twelve companies including Associated British Ports, British Steel, Centrica, Equinor, Mitsubishi, SSE and Saltend Cogeneration. It expects to capture at least 17 million tonnes of emissions annually from across the Humber region by the mid-2030s.
The NEP will operate the infrastructure needed to transport emissions from both zones to saline aquifers located under the North Sea about 90 miles east of Teesside and about 50 miles east of Humber. These aquifers will have the capacity to dispose of almost half the UK’s industrial emissions.
NEP has submitted an application for funding as part of the government’s Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge to which £170 million has been committed. The application follows the Oil and Gas Authority’s approval of BP, Equinor and the National Grid to hold licences for carbon storage.
The announcement is timely as the UK looks to a green recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. BP has accelerated their transition to an integrated energy company amid a policy of divestment from fossil fuels, a path which also taken by other traditional oil companies such as their new NEP partners, Shell and Total.
Earlier in the week, BP announced a return to profit in their third quarter results after the record loss incurred in the second quarter although the amount involved – $86 million ($66 million) – was merely a fraction of comparable results for 2019.
The volatile nature of the economy and markets in the wake of the global pandemic will welcome good news wherever it comes from and the Northern Endurance Partnership may pour some oil on troubled waters.