The energy sector is going through a vital transformation phase as it seeks to run operations more efficiently and effectively and, ultimately, reduce its carbon footprint to deliver its net-zero ambitions.
There have been significant steps in the right direction and there was positivity on display at the Offshore Northern Seas (ONS) exhibition, where more than 60,000 people from over 1,000 companies and 82 countries got together to talk about sustainable energy and the many pathways to net-zero.
It was particularly pleasing that there was plenty of discussion about the role carbon capture and storage (CCS) can play in significantly lowering the volume of CO2 emissions generated during oil and gas operations.
This marks real progress. CCS was an ambition for energy sector growth at the previous ONS four years ago; now it’s happening and it’s part of the sustainability conversation. And, with the UN setting out its Global Roadmap to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, the momentum behind CCS has accelerated.
This is how CCS works: by capturing CO2 before it is released into the atmosphere, it can be stored elsewhere. The stored CO2 can then be stored in the ground or reused again and again, whether it’s for building materials or oil recovery, and this drastically reduces emissions.
CCS is deeply attractive to the industry for two key reasons: it shows that sustainability and profits can go hand in hand, and with companies increasingly having to demonstrate their net-zero objectives at boardroom level, failing to embrace CCS means they will get left behind by their competitors. It becomes the license to operate in many countries.
So, with a little help from new technologies, CCS can be a vital part of creating a better future. Crucially, it can secure vast energy resources for Europe, while simultaneously helping companies to make money and reach sustainability targets.
How we can reuse oil and gas technology for CCS innovation
There is a technology race in the energy sector. This has created an innovative environment, which can only be a good thing for reaching net-zero targets. Together with Kongsberg Digital, we are constantly looking to support our customers with next-generation software, technology, and tools. We can base this on existing technology from oil and gas production and can turn it into CCS technology – we are not starting from scratch.
When designing and building oil fields, companies should ensure they are consuming as few resources as possible. For example, about 10% of the steel in the US is for the energy sector and, globally, 8% of the CO2 footprint is generated from the steel industry. Oil pipelines and infrastructure tend to be built with high-quality steel, so mapping out how they can reduce the consumption of steel in the build and operation is a significant step in the right direction. Kongsberg Digital’s LedaFlow is a software-based solution that companies can use to ensure field design and operation are optimised to create a low environmental footprint. This is the same we need to do to deliver affordable CCS.
Only by advancing technology solutions can we achieve net-zero, which is why we are driving forward simulation technology. Simulation lets companies analyse potential outcomes before committing to building anything; billion-dollar investment decisions are based on accurate simulator technology.
LedaFlow allows us to consider the characteristics of unprocessed production flows, called multiphase flow. We can use variables such as different chemicals and materials in order to analyse energy consumption in production use and reduce inadvertent flaring, which in turn reduces costs, brings down emissions, and enables the continuous pipeline flow of unprocessed oil and gas over greater distances.
Now, following public funding for LedaFlow earlier this year from the CLIMIT Programme, we are aiming to expand industry capabilities for the transportation pipeline and injection of CO2 into the ground into saline aquifers and depleted oil and gas reservoirs.
Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate!
In order to hit net-zero targets, the oil industry needs to fully embrace collaboration.
New LedaFlow software is being qualified in a joint industry research programme led by Equinor, named CO2FACT, which collects experimental data on pure and impure CO2. CO2FACT has an experimental loop at IFE that can flow both pure CO2 as well as CO2 which has impurities in a controlled environment. Such experimental research is crucial in our development of accurate physics-based software that supports the development of CCS technologies. For example, impure CO2 helps to overcome the limitations of multiphase flow models. It leads to improved design and operation by removing the risk from CCS investment decisions.
The industry can only move forward when large companies work together to collect this type of data, which is why the likes of Shell, Chevron, Gassco, and TotalEnergies, Schlumberger are also supporting CO2FACT, and other similar joint-industry projects.
Another CCS project we are currently collaborating on is with Computer Modelling Group (CMG). Together, we are modelling the injection and storage of carbon into reservoirs. By simulating this, we can mitigate environmental issues and lower the costs of long-term CO2 capture.
The industry has come a long way since the last ONS four years ago, and we are accelerating towards a future in which carbon capture and storage will be used by the vast majority of oil and gas companies.
Simulation technology continues to break new ground, and the industry will start to push towards using digital twins to predict how changes in operations will be impacted by CCS injections. This will be key if we are to meet UN climate objectives and, while the energy sector has a long way to go, by embracing CCS it is heading in the right direction. LedaFlow and Kongsberg Digital will be at the forefront of driving that change.
The CLIMIT Programme is Norway’s national programme for research, development and demonstration of CO2 capture and storage technology (CCS). It covers the entire chain from long-term, competence-building basic research to projects that demonstrate CO2 capture and storage technology technologies.
LedaFlow Technologies is a joint venture between ConocoPhillips, TotalEnergies, SINTEF, and Kongsberg Digital.By bringing together the expertise of all partners, LedaFlow is the preferred multiphase flow assurance provider, enabling better decision-making, costs reductions as well as realizing net-zero greenhouse gas ambitions and CCS technology.
My role in this is to ensure that all partners gain from the collaboration, utilise each other’s strengths as partners, and move quickly as we strive for a better future for everyone.
Jan Gerhard Norstrøm