Gas from Troll has been important for Europe for a quarter of a century. What about the next 25 years?

Since 1996 the Troll field has been an essential exporter of gas to Europe. But why are Equinor and Norway still betting on gas when we know that the world needs more renewable and less fossil energy?

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"Well, it's because gas is a source of energy that a lot of people in the world need gas every day. And they’ll continue to need it for a long time to come. Gas is user-friendly, moderately priced and releases 50 per cent less CO2 than coal."

Jalal Fahadi, platform manager on Troll A. 
Photo: Equinor

Gas is the form of energy that can phase out coal power fastest and easiest, such as in the UK, for example, which now has the lowest CO2 emissions it has seen in more than 100 years.

In simple terms, gas is used to generate power, in heavy industry like steel and cement, and as a raw material to make mobile phones and medicines, among other things.

Good reasons to be optimistic

Troll is the largest gas discovery made on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS) by far, and currently supplies as much as seven per cent of Europe’s total need for gas. This is the equivalent of the power consumption of more than 50 million European households. In comparison, there are less than 2.5 million households in Norway.

Incredibly enough, after nearly 25 years of production, more than half of the Troll gas is still in place, and this is one of several good reasons for us to be optimistic about the next 25 years as well.

Because the energy equation can't be solved without gas:

The global population keeps growing, and we are all using more and more energy. At the same time, we're moving toward a low-carbon society. This means that the world needs Norwegian gas if we're going to have enough energy in the years to come. This is because renewable energy sources like solar and wind are dependent on the right weather to generate power.

So what happens when the sun isn't shining and the wind isn't blowing? Well, then Europe needs gas.

But the gas from Troll is also important in Norway.

Troll is the cornerstone of Norway’s gas exports, accounting for almost one-third of our gas deliveries.

So far, Troll has sent gas worth more than NOK 1,100 billion to Europe.

This is in addition to the substantial revenues from the oil in the Troll area.

Since the Norwegian State is the largest owner of Troll, the lion's share of the value creation flows to the broader Norwegian society.

"Feat of the century"

As the first installation on the NCS, Troll A was electrified with power from shore from the very start. This has resulted in very low emissions from production. In addition to being the world's largest offshore gas platform, it was also the heaviest mobile man-made structure when it was built in the mid-1990s. Troll A was actually named the "century's greatest feat of Norwegian engineering" in 1999.

What would be the feat of the century these days?

 

Many would say succeeding in the energy transition.

The energy transition is a gradual pivot to energy sources, products and services that together have fewer negative consequences for the climate and the environment.

According to the European Commission, the energy transition can be achieved by turning the current climate and environmental challenges into opportunities for sustainable economic growth and development. This is the basis for the European Green Deal, which is Europe’s joint strategy to be the first net-zero continent by 2050.

Once Europe bands together to achieve net-zero by 2050, what role will Norwegian gas play moving forward? Because, eventually, all fossil fuels have to be removed from the energy mix.

"This also includes gas, at least the way we use it today. But gas can be reformed into hydrogen, which could be very important for the energy transition."

Gunnar Egge, production manager, Troll A. 
Photo: Schibsted Partnerstudio

This is why hydrogen is important

Heavy industry, like steel, cement and concrete, and industries such as transport and maritime, do not currently have adequate battery technology or sufficient opportunity to generate electricity through renewable energy systems. This is one of many reasons why hydrogen is important for the world to reach its climate goals; in fact, hydrogen can be stored and used when there is a need for energy.

In simple terms, there are two forms of hydrogen; blue and green, and we need both to reach our climate goals. This is because both blue and green hydrogen are emission-free at combustion, despite being created in different ways:

Production of green hydrogen

Production of blue hydrogen

Blue hydrogen is made by reforming gas in a process where CO2 is captured and then stored under the seabed, through CCS - i.e. carbon capture and storage. This reduces the carbon footprint by as much as 95 per cent. Green hydrogen is made using renewable energy, and is therefore entirely emission-free, even in production.

"There's a huge volume of gas left in the Troll field and other fields. But if we're going to be a long-term and reliable future supplier of blue hydrogen, we have to continue to explore for even more gas on the NCS."

Gunnar Egge, production manager, Troll A. 

Gunnar Egge believes the energy transition is already well under way in the North Sea. He can clearly see this in his work in the Troll area, which is now also exploring opportunities to electrify the Troll B and Troll C platforms.

"The energy transition isn't a switch you can just flip, it's several important steps. We have to continue the effort to reduce emissions in production, while simultaneously contributing to reduce emissions in consumption, for example by reforming gas into hydrogen," Egge says.