Digitally Uniting the Offshore Energy sector (Guest blog by NSTA)
Collaboration through GIS portals
A few years ago the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) worked with colleagues in The Crown Estate (TCE) and Crown Estate Scotland (CES) to create a game-changing, interactive mapping application that reveals the location of every energy-related site in the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS), bringing real benefits for exploration and the search for carbon storage locations.
The ability to show the proximity of existing oil and gas infrastructure to wind farms, electrical cables and carbon storage sites will assist in gauging the potential for reuse when decommissioning assessments are being made. It has also provided valuable information in prioritising areas for shooting seismic before a wind farm development is built.
Potential locations for platform electrification, gas-to-wire schemes and green hydrogen production can also be more readily found by using the app.
The map data itself stores details about the infrastructure which, combined with spatial locations, can support a wide variety of activities such as site survey cooperation, area planning, conflict resolution and disaster response.
This work highlighted the huge amount of skill and expertise that is spread across the industry, but which had effectively been siloed within the individual organisations and parts of the industry. We started to look for ways we could collaborate further to benefit the energy transition to net zero.
Offshore Energy Digital and Data Strategy Taskforce
The taskforce was launched in September 2021 by the NSTA, Net Zero Technology Centre and Offshore Energies UK, with the aim of creating a digital and data strategy spanning the oil, gas and renewables sectors. I was invited to chair the group, which brought together industry bodies and government organisations which regulate and create value in offshore energy – including The Crown Estate, Crown Estate Scotland, the Technology Leadership Board and Renewable UK – to encourage a modern, digitalised, and integrated offshore energy sector.
With the UK targeting net zero carbon emissions by 2050, there are significant obligations on the offshore energy sector to accelerate the deployment of clean energy sources, such as hydrogen and offshore wind, as well as carbon capture and storage technologies. At the same time, the sector is continuing to reduce emissions across all existing manufacturing, construction, operational and decommissioning endeavours.
The taskforce held workshops and focus groups across industry, academia and the public sector. Its work culminated in the publication of the Digitalising Offshore Energy Systems report, which contains seven recommendations that will enable the digitalisation of offshore energy as we transition to net zero.
Three of the report’s recommendations were “strategic”, addressing the areas of policy and regulation, tools and infrastructure, and digitalisation, including unifying data principles, delivering a common data toolkit and driving cross-sector digitalisation. By taking a whole system view of offshore energy we can add the greatest value to the energy transition.
What’s next…? Offshore Energy Digital Strategy Group
The main benefit of this report is that we have shown there’s real value to collaboration on digital and data, breaking down the silos but also identifying real wins that will make a difference for net zero.
We’ve now created the Offshore Energy Digital Strategy Group to deliver on these recommendations. We are looking for people to join our four task groups on Data Principles, Common Data Toolkit, Driving Cross-sector Digitalisation and Leveraging Data. These groups will focus on data interoperability, creating a whole system view of infrastructure and enabling further monitoring of net zero targets and advanced emissions.
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