Objectives of wind at sea
In the search for sustainable energy sources, the Dutch government is laying great emphasis on wind energy. The ambition is that by 2020 some 6,000 Megawatts of offshore wind energy capacity will have been installed in the North Sea. An area of about 1,000 km2 will be necessary for this, preferably close in to the coast.
Space for oil and gas production
This means major challenges for the oil and gas sector. In the areas where the chances that oil or gas are present is low there will be few problems in building wind farms. But in those areas where oil and gas are or are likely to be present careful consultation will be necessary between involved parties. Many oil and gas fields have not yet been mapped and undertaking reliable seismic research for them in the presence of offshore wind farms will make that difficult. Exploration drilling is best undertaken vertically with the drill platform directly above the field. Finally consideration must be given to the safe distance between oil and gas installations and the wind farms to allow safe helicopter movements to and from the various installations.
New fields are all relatively small. And to ensure optimal economic exploitation, they will require to be linked to existing transport infrastructure. This will mean that existing infrastructure will wholly or partly have to remain in place, even though the original platform may not be producing anymore. Such an installation could take on the function of treatment or transfer operation.
Underground CO2 storage in old oil and gas fields will require extension of the life of offshore installations. Retaining the infrastructure will depend on the moment oil or gas production is closed in, the moment CO2 can be delivered and the period of the CO2-storage operation.
This all underlines the importance for the oil and gas sector that space be retained for exploration and development.
The necessity for consultation on the allocation of space
NOGEPA invests great attention to reaching agreement with authorities as to the allocation of space in the North Sea to the various users such as shipping, wind farms, and oil and gas production operations. Consensus is critical. What should go where, and when? NOGEPA supports the application of a responsible process in assessing and satisfying the interests of all those involved.
What has to be considered here is the fact that gas is the fossil fuel that contributes the least to climate change and therefore should be the most significant energy source in the transition period to sustainable energy. Note also that the gas reserves in the Dutch sector of the North Sea are important for the security of energy supplies for the Netherlands and other EU countries. The government has announced that the Netherlands must become the gas roundabout of Europe. The national oil and gas infrastructure will be of vital importance in the realizing of such an ambition.
While in certain ways wind parks and oil and gas production operations may get in each other’ s way, NOGEPA is convinced that there is much potential synergy in the various interested parties working together. Existing offshore installations could be converted into transformer stations, or service and maintenance platforms for wind farms.
Similarly the creation of an offshore electricity network will offer opportunities to the oil and gas industry, for instance by the generation of electricity with gas from fields whose pressure is now so low that it is no longer profitable to compress and transport it to land. NOGEPA is researching the possibilities of transforming such residual gas into electricity on location. The electricity generated would then simply be delivered to the North Sea electricity grid.
The possibilities of creating synergy between gas and wind power are also being studied; if there is no wind then residual gas could come to the rescue.
Finally the possibilities of extracting and transporting gas from low pressure fields with the help of electrical compressors is also on the agenda. The necessary electricity would be supplied by the wind farms. Thanks to offshore wind energy, offshore gas installations could produce gas in an optimally environmentally friendly manner.