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Repurposing pipelines for CCS and hydrogen could save £7bn, transition authority says.

By Dale Lunan

The UK’s North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) released a new screening tool June 21 designed to help maximise the repurposing of North Sea oil and gas infrastructure for energy transition projects.

Repurposing can make a significant contribution to the UK’s drive to net-zero, possibly generating multibillion-pound savings across carbon capture and storage (CCS) and hydrogen production projects which might otherwise require new equipment, said Pauline Innes, head of decommissioning at the NSTA.

“The NSTA is committed to supporting industry in embracing decommissioning and repurposing as vital tools in driving the UK’s energy transition,” she said. “Repurposing makes sound business sense from a cost perspective, and it’s also good from an environmental point of view – helping operators fulfil their North Sea Transition Deal pledges to lower emissions and guide the country to net zero.”

Operators with oil and gas fields within six years of cessation will be asked to use the new tool to identify which pieces of existing equipment might be given a new lease of life. This process, the NSTA says, would add structure and consistency to the assessment of North Sea repurposing potential and help industry capitalise on opportunities.

Where there are no realistic alternatives, the tool will enable decommissioning work to progress without unnecessary delays.

The tool will initially be sent to 20 companies operating 120 fields which are nearing, or have already reached, the end of their productive lives. The NSTA will review submissions from those operators, cross-check the information against its own data and work with operators to explore options for and overcome barriers to repurposing.

Opportunities to repurpose platform topsides, jackets and subsea systems are likely to be limited, but the NSTA sees significant potential in pipelines, especially in emerging CCS and hydrogen projects, and successful repurposing just half the 100 or so pipelines which appear suitable for repurposing would save the UK energy transition industry an estimated £7bn.