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Wind and gas projects keeping the southern North Sea busy

It is arguably leading the energy transition way for the UK, with multi-hundred to gigawatt class wind farms rubbing shoulders with significant gas production.

“We’re very much in the ascendancy,” said Simon Gray, chief executive of trade organisation East of England Energy Group (EEEGR).

“We now have off the east coast of England something like 56% of the UK’s offshore wind generation capacity and this is expected to go on increasing through to 2030.

“As the UK’s offshore wind capacity increases, we’re set to remain around the 50%-plus level.

“The reasons for that are simple and include shallow waters, a decent seabed for installing turbines, a good wind resource and easy access to the largest electricity markets in Britain: London, the south-east and the Midlands.

“And of course considerable quantities of natural gas are still being produced from the Southern Gas Basin, where new field discoveries continue to be made, albeit those are tight resources and therefore harder to develop and produce.

“We still have some of the largest volumes of decommissioning on the UKCS.

“The SNS is where the UK’s offshore story began in terms of gas and a considerable number of the platforms still out there are 30, 40, 50 years old.”
Change is in the air for the membership of EEEGR, whose supply chain membership is probably the most diverse of any energy trade body in the UK.

“Transition is the word on everyone’s lips,” Mr Gray said. “And that’s exactly where we are.

“We’re the part of the UK that is experiencing the greatest migration from fossil fuels towards renewables. And that process in theory needs to have been completed by 2050.

“Although gas is currently on the back foot because of weak prices, it still accounts for 28% of UK electricity generation compared with 2.3% from coal, 20% from nuclear and wind nearly 30%.”

In terms of indigenous UK gas production, the SNS accounts for around 30% via the Bacton terminal in Norfolk.

A major operation is under way to protect this strategically important facility from being engulfed by the North Sea as sea levels rise.

The £20 million-plus “sandscaping” is intended to protect a 5.6km stretch of coast by rebuilding beaches using huge volumes of sand.

Bacton is absolutely vital to current gas basin production and future development potential. And it handles significant volumes of imported gas via the North Sea’s hugely important interconnector network.

Gas has a critical transitional role to play for the next couple of decades at least and the SNS current revival is being usefully stimulated by the Oil and Gas Authority’s Southern

North Sea Tight Gas Strategy published in June 2017.

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