In this report, the International Energy Agency (IEA) presents what it emphasises is one possible route towards net zero emissions in the energy sector. The 1.5°C report from the UN’s intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) in 2018 outlined 90 possible scenarios for reaching the same goal. The IEA emphasises that its report is not an indication of where the global energy sector is heading, but a possible direction for reaching zero emissions in 2050 and limiting the temperature increase to 1.5°C. All sectors must reduce their emissions substantially and as quickly as possible, and the oil and gas sector in Norway has set itself the goal of doing this in both the short and long terms.
The Norwegian oil and gas industry has already established ambitious goals for cutting emissions from Norway’s continental shelf (NCS), and is now working to reach a 50 per cent reduction in 2030 and get down towards near zero in 2050. In parallel, the sector is developing solutions which will help to reduce emissions from oil and gas end users, such as hydrogen and carbon capture and storage (CCS), as well as working to develop new industry in offshore wind power.
According to the IEA, production from existing fields will be sufficient to meet energy needs, providing oil and gas demand declines as quickly as it does in this scenario. That means a large share of production up to 2050 will fall to countries with low production costs. Norwegian Oil and Gas does not share the assumption that Opec members alone should account for more than half of oil and gas production for the world market in a 2050 perspective. If demand does not decline as rapidly as the IEA assumes in its scenario, and the supply side is simultaneously choked off, global energy provision could be threatened and lead to very high energy prices.
Although the IEA assumes that traditional oil and gas activity will decline, it emphasises that expertise from this sector will be important for developing such technologies as hydrogen, CCS and offshore wind power, which are necessary to eliminate emissions from sectors which are difficult to decarbonise. Norway’s oil and gas industry has already set specific ambitions for how to create a forward-looking energy sector on the NCS, which includes offshore wind power, hydrogen and CCS.
Why it is sensible to continue oil and gas activities on the NCS
- The IEA’s scenario shows that oil and gas will continue to be needed in the years to come. It is the oil produced at the lowest cost and with the smallest emissions which will be competitive, and Norway is then very well positioned because both its production costs and emissions are low. Emissions from Norwegian oil and gas output are among the lowest in the world in the production phase, and a united petroleum sector is committed to reducing emissions towards near zero in 2050.
- The NCS is a reliable energy supplier. The IEA report assumes that the world economy in 2050 will make itself even more dependent on deliveries from Opec, which could pose an increased risk of a more unstable political position – an assumption it is uncertain that other countries will accept.
- Halting exploration for and development of new fields would choke of revenues and jobs in Norway and also significantly weaken Norway’s opportunities to develop and expand new green centres of expertise and technology which will be crucial for reaching the climate goals – such as CCS, offshore wind power and recovering seabed minerals.
- The report recommends scaling up investment in CCS and in CO2 pipelines. Norway’s Longship project will make an important contribution to demonstrating a full-scale value chain for CCS.
- A massive commitment to hydrogen is assumed in the IEA scenario, with total output rising from 212 million tonnes in 2030 to 528 in 2050. By 2030, 69 million tonnes of this production will come from natural gas with CCS, rising to 198 million tonnes in 2050. Such a hydrogen commitment will require big investments in CCS and large quantities of natural gas. That will create a need for gas produced with low emissions, which is already the case on the NCS.
- The IEA scenario assumes a sharp upscaling of wind power, both on land and offshore. With the Hywind Tampen project, Norway is first off the blocks with a commitment to floating wind technology, while the opening of areas on the NCS for both fixed and floating wind power development on 1 January 2021 marks the starting signal for a broad commitment to such solutions in these waters.
- According to the report, demand for minerals is set to increase enormously. That shows the crucial significance which producing seabed minerals will have for the green transition, and the importance of Norway continuing the process of opening for the recovery of these resources.