Looking ahead – a positive momentum for low and zero emission solutions

The Norwegian oil and gas industry must reduce its emissions by 50 per cent in 2030 and further down towards zero in 2050. We had a talk with director for climate and the environment at Offshore Norge, Benedicte Solaas. Offshore Norge is an associated agency to LowEmission.

Benedicte Solaas
Benedicte Solaas. Foto: Offshore Norge

The year 2022 proved to be a year of challenges, as the intensifying climate crisis was further compounded by a global energy crisis, which was further accelerated by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Energy prices spiked to extreme levels. How will this affect the energy transition and the effort to reduce emissions?

There is no doubt that 2022 has been a challenging year. The war in Ukraine has of course significantly affected the situation for our industry. Norwegian oil and gas have always been important for Europe, but the Norwegian energy supply is now even more crucial, with Europe cutting back imports of Russian oil and gas. Our industry has responded quickly to this situation, ensuring high production from the Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS). At the same time, the increased production has not come at the expense of the efforts to mitigate climate change.

The industry continues to work systematically towards the 2030 targets of reducing emissions by 55 per cent on the NCS. The global situation has led to challenges, like high electricity prices in Norway – and even higher ones in the EU. This led to some factories having to close down, which affect people’s jobs. The EU and the European Commission have done a lot to speed up the energy transition, not least by allocating more funds. IEA actually expects that the energy transition in Europe will go faster because of the war in Ukraine, sparking momentum for low-carbon energy sources.

This of course puts a lot of pressure on Norway to remain competitive in the global arena, developing new technologies like offshore wind, carbon capture and storage (CCS) and hydrogen. This is true particularly with regards to offshore wind, where Europe have come a long way. Despite the challenges we faced in 2022, I strongly believe that there will be a positive outcome, and that we see a positive momentum building.

Do we have to choose between either energy security or mitigating climate change?

I hope, and believe, that we don’t have to choose between either energy security or mitigating climate change. At Offshore Norge, we are now working on our annual status report – tracking the efforts made by the Norwegian oil and gas industry to ensure that Norway and the world will reach emission targets. Although the situation undoubtedly is more challenging now because of the international situation, and we experience that some projects are no longer viable, the industry remains focused on reaching their climate ambitions.

Offshore Norge recently published a report that got a lot of attention in Norway – saying that electrification of Norwegian oil and gas production indeed will have an effect on global emissions. How important is the development of new low- and zero-emission solutions for oil and gas production, in order to meet ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Developing new low and zero emission solutions for oil and gas production is very important and should be a high-priority climate measure. Electrification of oil and gas operations enables significant reductions in CO2 emissions. The most usual method is when the electricity comes from land through power cables. Moving forward, we see that it can be challenging to develop sufficient renewable electricity and grid infrastructure by 2030.

However, electrification with power from shore is vital for industry to meet its climate targets, and it will be very difficult for Norway to reach its 2030-targets if we do not reduce emissions from the oil and gas industry. Of course, given that we are steering towards a power deficit and the high electricity prices, the industry faces a more challenging situation with regards to electrification.

What is the role of research and new innovations in this context?

The challenges I just mentioned reinforce the need for developing other low carbon technologies. This means research and innovation is very important looking forward. One big challenge is uncertainty whether new solutions can be developed fast enough considering the ambitious 2030-targets, and at a reasonable price.

What is the biggest challenge, with regards to research?

We need to come up with more solutions and new technologies through research, and to continue developing new innovations. We must remember that we also have very ambitious climate targets after 2030. The ambitions for 2050 will require us to use the entire toolbox – and will undoubtably be the biggest challenge.