The UK Southern North Sea (SNS) has the perfect conditions for the development of Gas to Wire for the UK. Fields and infrastructure are reaching end of economic life and require expensive decommissioning, natural gas is stranded and looking for an alternative route to shore, and due to new offshore renewables infrastructure, such a route may already exist.
Oil and gas development started with large fields which were added to over the years by smaller tie backs. Satellites and clusters formed around large central infrastructure. Gas fields in particular benefitted from economies of scale with multiple platforms and tie-backs using common central pipelines as a route to shore.
Now with some fields reaching the end of their economic production and shutting in, other fields in a cluster have to soak up the additional cost of distribution, which in turn may make them un-economic, or they may be cut-off altogether. This causes a cascade effect where part of a cluster stops producing and soon the rest follows suit. As a result, the burden of decommissioning also comes in clusters. This poses a problem for operators, who have to fund the decommissioning programme, and the government, who suffers the tax offsets agreed to ensure decommissioning actually took place. On top of this, a greater volume of gas becomes stranded by economics than by natural decline, which is counter to maximising the use of resources and degrades security of supply.
Gas to wire (GTW) , where natural gas is combusted offshore, on the platform, by power turbines to produce electricity for transmission to shore, changes the game. Infrastructure can be re-used and converted to host power generation equipment. Power generation can be decentralised and can soak up the remaining reserves by using the natural gas at source. The route to shore changes from a gas pipeline to a relatively cheaper electrical cable. Best of all, existing wind farm electrical infrastructure is already in place. Due to the nature of wind energy there is most often spare capacity on the cable which now has a market. When the wind blows, baseload gas fired power generation can be turned off and renewable power uses up the cable. When the wind dies down, consistent baseload power is on tap to soak up the spare capacity.
The Oil and Gas Authority has published a report that looks at the technical considerations and potential benefits from GTW in areas such as the Southern North Sea and the East Irish Sea. It offers a great technical description of the gas to wire system, and describes opportunities in the SNS and East Irish Sea (EIS).
This technology is clearly primed to solve some critical issues in the UK and is actively supported by government.
Peter-Giles Robinson, Projects Manager
Disclaimer: This is a non-technical brief on gas to wire in the SNS. My opinions and assumptions do not necessarily represent those of the company, nor do they make warranties or commitments on behalf of the company. Please feel free to contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org for any further information.