Critical technologies to deliver UK’s integrated net-zero energy system


Research firm Wood Mackenzie has released a new report highlighting the critical technologies needed to deliver an integrated net-zero energy system on the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS).

Delivering a technology-enabled integrated net-zero energy future will cost £430 billion ($556.9 billion) but generate more than £2.5 trillion ($3.2 trillion) in economic impact to the UK economy by 2050, according to the Closing the Gap – Technology for a Net Zero North Sea report.

The report has been compiled with the support from Chrysaor and the Scottish government and outlines how accelerating the development of new energy technologies can dramatically reduce emissions.

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The technologies include:

  • Oil and gas platform electrification, methane leak detection and advanced subsea systems;
  • Larger blades, taller towers and automated inspection technology for fixed offshore wind;
  • Optimised and standardised floating offshore wind foundation designs;
  • Innovative hydrogen membranes and carbon dioxide sorbents to improve blue hydrogen yield;
  • New saltwater electrolysis technologies to reduce the cost of green hydrogen production;
  • New solvents, sorbents, membranes and conversion solutions to reduce the cost of carbon capture and storage;
  • Power off-take solutions and support systems for marine renewables.

Investing in the technologies would help the UK to:

  1. Innovate its renewable and fossil fuel sectors and create more than 200,000 new jobs across the UK.
  2. Create a diversified energy sector, support a new generation of highly-skilled jobs and open up export potential.

Malcolm Forbes-Cable, vice president, upstream consulting at Wood Mackenzie, said: “Just as the UK was a world-leader in the development of offshore oil and gas, it now has the unique opportunity to spearhead the offshore sector’s transition to a net zero energy system.”

“The North Sea is at the heart of the UK economy. This won’t change, but our energy eco-system will.

“This report underlines how the UKCS can be redeveloped into a decarbonised, integrated energy system; one that can optimise the offshore sector’s economic value and deliver a secure supply of affordable energy.

“Hydrogen, for example, can be used in place of gas to heat homes and power engines and industrial processes, while reducing our carbon footprint.

“The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has set significant targets for a low-carbon hydrogen economy in the UK, but production remains close to non-existent. There are key technology challenges to overcome before hydrogen can be deployed on a vast scale.”

Colette Cohen OBE, CEO at OGTC, adds: “Reimagining the North Sea as an integrated energy system is essential for the UK and Scotland to achieve their net-zero ambitions. But we need to invest now to close the gap on the key technologies needed to make this ambition a reality.

“We need to digitise our offshore energy sector and solve big challenges like energy storage, infrastructure redeployment, transmission systems and cost-competitive floating wind structures. By doing this, we can create strategic advantage and valuable export opportunities.”

“With its decades of energy expertise, the UK has a huge opportunity to become a leading manufacturer, designer, installer and operator of net-zero energy systems.

“Leveraging our strength in oil and gas, we can also partner with the renewables sector to accelerate the delivery of the next generation of energy in the UK – and internationally.

“This is where governments and industry should focus investment at pace in the coming years.”