The oil and gas sector are already well under way with the green transition

11. December 2020

Innovation and new technological solutions have shown the way forward for many companies in the Danish oil and gas sector.

It looked rather pessimistic when a historic agreement was entered into the other day for the Danish part of the North Sea, which entails a stop for further tender rounds on the other side of 2050.

However, that pessimism is unfounded.

Already now, the fossil fuel part of the Danish energy sector has come a long way in the transition to a greener production, and for many, the green transition is already a daily reality, says CEO Glenda Napier from the cluster organisation Energy Cluster Denmark, which includes participants from the entire energy sector among its 400 members:

“In many areas, the energy sector has already embarked on what awaits on the other side of 2050. A stop for further supply in the North Sea is an additional choice of change, innovation, and opportunities – several cases from our member companies in different technology areas show this,” she says.

10 years into the process

That view resonates along the quayside in Esbjerg. ESVAGT is both involved in the innovation project Green Vessel together with Energy Cluster Denmark on green fuel for ships and already has years of experience in renewable energy, points out Peter Lytzen, CEO:

“Our transition process to be a supplier for offshore wind began in 2010 with ‘Esvagt Supporter’. We have both followed the needs of the market and set new innovative standards for how to service an offshore wind farm – we currently have three new SOV vessels (Service Operation Vessels for the offshore wind industry) on the way and have a clear expectation to continue the positive growth in the wind industry,” says Peter Lytzen.

Steen Brødbæk, CEO of Semco Maritime, has a similar ambition and is investing heavily in renewable energy right now.

“We have been working purposefully on a transition for many years, and our strategy towards 2023 is that 50 percent of the business must come from renewable energy. The important thing is that Esbjerg will continue to play the major key role in offshore wind farms. If this is to happen, it requires innovation, development, and maintenance of offshore wind turbine components in Esbjerg,” says Steen Brødbæk.

Greener projects

Currently, half of Semco Maritime’s 1,400 employees are employed in the oil and gas industry – and the new agreement will not change their work for the next 10-15 years:

“There are now fixed framework conditions for the next 30 years, and there are still local areas where you can drill into the neighbouring licenses. We hope it can provide new oil-gas projects and extra work,” says Steen Brødbæk.

Jens Peder Ravn Thomsen, Managing Director of Ocean Team Group, also sees innovation as key – both in maintaining the relevance of the oil and gas industry and in a future with greener projects.

“We have a business of being close to customers’ needs and ensuring that we have the innovation and technological development that is in demand. It requires that we are prepared for change – also in a world that moves away from fossil fuel over time. For example, we work with CO2 injection in oil gas wells related to CCS projects together with DHRTC, and we have for many years helped the wind industry with environmentally friendly life-extending activities. We see digitalisation as a way forward, and we also focus on PTX, where we can already contribute with 25 years of experience. For us, it is about converting our competencies into new areas and bringing value to the energy industry, both to the fossil fuel of yesterday and the green energy of tomorrow,” he says.

Wind energy in oil/gas

PTX is also a focus area for Total, which supports a group of knowledge institutions and companies in investigating the potential of using renewable energy sources to improve the climate footprint of Danish oil and gas production. This is done through the innovation project ‘O/G Decarb’, where wind turbine and wave technology are combined on a liquid foundation to create and store renewable energy, which via electrolysis can convert electricity into hydrogen:

“It is an exciting and innovative project that Total supports because it has the potential to solve one of the challenges of electrifying production platforms with offshore wind produced near the platform,” says Ole Hansen, Head of Development, Business & JV Management at Total E&P Denmark.  The study can help create a reliable green energy supply for the platforms, which can be used on days without wind – and at the same time overproduction of hydrogen can be sent with the produced natural gas to land as a greener product.

Geared for change

Another of Esbjerg’s experienced offshore companies is NorSea, which has been involved from the earliest days of oil and natural gas in both Denmark and Norway.

“We will of course continue to ensure efficient and green operational service for this industry for many years to come,” says CEO Jesper Høj-Hansen:

“At the same time, we will utilise the strong competencies we have built up to expand our market in wind logistics, where Esbjerg in particular is interesting for NorSea Group with its central position to service the North Sea’s expansion of wind energy, which we have locally in Esbjerg,” says he and points out that the whole area is geared for the transition:

“There is great support from local politicians; from the companies, the port, educational institutions, the professional organisations and strong industry and cluster organisations to execute on the possibilities of green energy. However, it is also important that Christiansborg contributes with good Danish conditions for the wind turbine manufacturers, so it is attractive to produce at the port and in the hinterland in Esbjerg,” he says.

Jobs in the transition

Also, INEOS is involved in ambitious projects that can bring benefits to the climate – e.g., storage of large amounts of CO2 in depleted oil fields in the Nini Field in the North Sea. Carbon Capture Storage (CCS), as CO2 collection and storage are referred to, is a cornerstone of the Danish climate strategy, and here concrete oil and gas knowledge is of great value:

“Oil has been down there for millions of years, and we know how oil and water flow into the reservoir. It is crucial to be able to deliver a secure CO2 storage,” says Johan Byskov Svendsen, Business Development Manager at INEOS Oil & Gas Denmark.

INEOS is at the forefront of the EUDP project Greensand, which also involves cooperation with Energy Cluster Denmark, which will lead to a green transformation of a field in the North Sea – and jobs on land. ICCS has come along further in Norway, and here it is estimated that there are approximately 200 permanent jobs for every 1 million tonnes of CO2 that must be transported and stored. If one transfers those figures to the government’s climate programme, it will generate 1,600 jobs, which for the most part can be filled by those currently working in the oil & gas sector.

“If everything goes the right way with Project Greensand, and we establish 0.5 million tonnes of CO2 storage in 2025 and 4 million tonnes towards the end of this decade, then already from 2021 there will be people in Esbjerg working with Greensand and CO2 storage. From 2025, there will be up to 100 people working on the project and storage, and towards 2030, there will be up to 1,000 people working either directly or indirectly with CO2 storage through Project Greensand,” says Johan Byskov Svendsen.