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Supporting the transition to a low-carbon society with electrification of oil and gas platforms

Electrification means replacing a fossil-based power supply with renewable energy, enabling a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

The transition to a low-carbon society requires strong growth in renewable energy. However, even in the most optimistic forecast scenarios for the green shift, the world will still be dependent on oil and gas for a long time to come. It is therefore essential that the oil and gas that the world needs is produced with as low a carbon footprint as possible.

Today, most offshore installations produce their own electricity using gas turbines, which account for a quarter of Norway's total emissions of both NOX and CO2.

Electrification of the shelf involves laying cables from the mainland to the areas where it will be most appropriate to replace the gas turbines.

Power from either renewable energy production or gas power plants with CO2 management can replace parts of today's polluting power generation on the oil platforms. Here, we explain the many initiatives we are undertaking in electrification.

Illustration: Power from shore to the Utsira High and the Sleipner field centre.

Facts and figures about electrification of the Norwegian continental shelf

  • Oil and gas installations on the NCS emit approximately 13 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents
  • Over 160 gas turbines used for power generation on the platforms as well as flaring account for 84.6% of total CO2 emissions from the Norwegian continental shelf
  • In 2018, petroleum activities on the Norwegian continental shelf accounted for 28% of Norway's total greenhouse gas emissions
  • Operators on the Norwegian continental shelf pay tax on emissions. In addition to climate quotas, which are around NOK 250 per tonne, operators must also pay a separate fee of approx. 500 kroner per tonne. This means that in practice it costs about NOK 750 for every tonne of emissions
  • Electrification is an investment in both the climate and the sustainable future of the oil industry
  • Electrification of the Norwegian continental shelf is an expensive but profitable climate measure
  • Our Johan Sverdrup field has CO2 emissions of just 0.67 kg per barrel, compared with an average of 9 kg, thanks to electrification.

Sources: Equinor, Bellona, Enerwe, Universtitet i Bergen

What is Equinor doing in electrification?

Kjell-Børge Freiberg (right), and Jez Averty
Oil and Energy Minister Kjell-Børge Freiberg visits Johan Sverdrup during the official start-up of electrification from land. Photo: Ole Jørgen Bratland

The oil and gas industry is largely run on electricity generated on site using gas turbines and currently accounts for approximately one quarter of Norway’s total carbon emissions.

Troll A was the first platform on the Norwegian continental shelf to be electrified, back in 1996.

The Gjøa field was electrified from the very outset. As development operator, Equinor lay a 100 km long cable from Mongstad out to the Gjøa field – the longest alternating current cable in the world at that time.

In 2018, Martin Linge was prepared for electrification through the laying of a 163 km long cable from Kollsnes. Production from the Martin Linge field is scheduled to start in 2021.

The Johan Sverdrup field has been electrified by means of power from land, helping ensure record-low emissions from production. Johan Sverdrup has CO2 emissions of just 0.67 kg per barrel, compared with an average of some 9 kg on the Norwegian continental shelf and 18 kg globally.

Sverdrup phase 2 will also supply other fields on the Utsira High with power from the shore. Plans are also being made to enable the Sleipner Field Centre, the Gudrun platform and other connected fields to reduce their emissions through power supply from the Utsira High.

The next technological milestone will be to supply the Gullfaks and Snorre platforms with wind power through the pioneering project Hywind Tampen, the largest floating offshore wind farm in the world when it starts operating in 2022.

In addition, there is work underway to investigate the possibility of supplying power from shore to the Troll B and C platforms and to the Oseberg field. We are also exploring the possibility of supplying the LNG plant in Hammerfest with power from the grid. Further projects will come in the years ahead.