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Oil and Gas UK aiming to cut operational carbon emissions to zero by 2050

The UK’s fossil fuel industry has announced a plan to cut its emissions to net zero by 2050, although environmental campaigners have criticised the announcement saying that the UK needs to move away from fossil fuel usage altogether.

Industry body Oil and Gas UK (OGUK) has outlined how it plans to cut carbon emissions during production through changes to its operations including reductions in flaring and venting, and major capital investment programmes aimed at using electricity rather than gas, to power offshore facilities.

It is also aiming to halve greenhouse gas emissions arising from exploration and production work on the UK Continental Shelf by 2030, and then delivering a 90 per cent emissions reduction by 2040.

It added that future plans “could” encompass efforts to bolster the skills and infrastructure needed to develop critical carbon-cutting solutions such as industrial-scale carbon capture usage and storage, and the use of hydrogen for heating and heavy transport.

But environmental campaigners have not been receptive to the plans.

Ryan Morrison of Friends of the Earth Scotland said: “Fossil fuels drive the climate crisis and the industry has shown time and time again it does not serve the interests of people or planet.

“Thousands of offshore workers are facing redundancy, supply chain companies in Scotland are struggling to cope with the industry’s volatility, while the reckless pursuit of every last drop of oil and gas brings climate breakdown ever closer.”

Lang Banks, WWF Scotland director, said: “The oil and gas industry needs to take responsibility for the use of its products, not just how green its operations are.

“Reducing our dependence on fossil fuels is the only fair and sustainable way to address the climate emergency.”

Chief executive Deirdre Michie said the UK’s oil and gas sector has been dealt a “devastating blow” by the coronavirus pandemic, which has depleted demand for fossil fuels across the world.

“We need a fair, inclusive, and sustainable transition towards climate targets,” she said. “We need a green recovery which supports jobs, supply chain companies and energy communities.

“We remain committed to addressing the challenge of climate change, as we outlined in our Roadmap 2035 published last year. Our industry will play its part by reducing its emissions and using its skills to develop the solutions that will be needed to make a significant contribution to the UK’s overall targets.”

Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng said: “The offshore oil and gas sector’s commitment to halving operational emissions over the next decade is a welcome step for an industry that has a vital role to play in our energy transition in the years to come.

“The UK government will continue to work tirelessly with all partners to deliver a dynamic Sector Deal. This will further support the industry in becoming more sustainable, as we work towards achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.”

A total of 18.3 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gases were emitted from upstream oil and gas operations in 2018 – 4 per cent of total UK emissions.

The current OGUK targets would see the removal of over nine million tonnes of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gas emissions from its operations over the next decade.

In March it was announced that a new form of lower-carbon petrol comprised of up to 10 per cent bioethanol will be made available at petrol stations around the UK from 2021. 

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