The more than 1400 oil and gas platforms currently located in the North Sea might eventually be used to fight the problem they helped to create: unsustainable energy generation. By revamping these installation, they could become part of the energy revolution as hydrogen production and storage facilities.
Multiple organization, including oil giants Shell and Total, but also Siemens and Dutch research institute TNO, are now working together on giving fossil fuel infrastructure in the North Sea a new life within a renewable grid. It is expected that deconstruction of the Dutch share of installations alone would come at a 3.6€ billion price tag, costs which the aforementioned parties hope to prevent.
Shallow waters combined with a lot of wind make the North Sea ideally suited for vast British, Norwegian, and Dutch wind parks. Several gigawatts are already online, and with many more in the pipeline, the North Sea is quickly becoming a vital part of the Western European electricity supply.
As wind power capacity further increases, there will inevitably be more and more moments at which all these turbines produce more than what is needed, engendering a need for storage. That’s where the old platforms could come in. They could transform the electricity into hydrogen, in which form the energy can then be stored for times at which the wind is blowing less vigorously or for periods of peak demand.
Other uses are being considered as well. Platforms could be turned into gas-to-wire installations for example, which would convert the last remainders of gas in the North Sea to electricity that could be brought to land using the grid connections of the wind farms. This could be done with a very low-carbon footprint according to TNO, if combined with carbon capture and storage (CCS). But even connecting those installations that are currently in operation to the grid would already attain a substantial emission reduction. An estimated 1 million tons of CO2 could be saved that way, as these installations are now dependent on inefficient gas or diesel generators for their electricity supply.