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NEWS & INSIGHT | Opinion

OGTC turns 4!

10 February 2021
Written by Colette Cohen OBE

If you had told me five years ago that today, I would be running a technology development and deployment organisation, I’m not sure I would have believed you. But life often doesn’t go as we planned. The last year is probably the clearest example of that. Many work events cancelled or reinvented as a virtual experience, holidays missed, family events postponed.

My journey to a technology organisation is not that strange. Technology development has played a key role throughout my career from my early days on well sites, through to innovation getting us out of sticky problems on major projects through the years.

Looking back over my first four years of OGTC I have a lot to be thankful for. The members and stakeholders who stepped up in the first year to help us get started, from the Catapults who shared their processes and documentation through to companies like Total who committed people and money to match government funding and get projects started.

Our first projects have already delivered commercialised technology like Air Control Entech’s drones and DeltaTek’s Seacure, but there are also technologies that have changed the way we work, from Non Intrusive Inspection techniques to OPEX’s Smart Behaviours technology and ImRANDD’s inspection analytics. There are many more examples of technologies that are available because of industry partnering with OGTC to develop and trial them – find more below.

But the landscape has changed so much in the last few years. Who thought a teenager would become a spokeswoman for the world youth on climate change? Who thought governments would commit to eliminating diesel and petrol cars from our roads and to creating a net zero economy? But this has happened. And perhaps for the first time since Walt Rostow created the Stages of Economic Growth in the 60’s, we are finally considering that growth without attention to impact on the planet and our living environment is not thriving and growing, but is instead unsustainable.

It is within this backdrop, our industry is changing. Committing to a net zero future. And this is where I see OGTC’s perfect sweetspot, working in partnership with industry and government to enable and accelerate the transition of our industry to a net zero future. A future powered by technology innovation, delivering a different, diversified and affordable energy system. We are committed to that purpose.

With industry, we have co-invested more than £160M in over 250 projects. We have an active field trial pipeline and with our focus on delivering net zero, we have a series of roadmaps which identify our areas of interest. We want to accelerate investment in innovation in key themes, from emissions management through diversification of the energy mix to the digitisation of the North Sea.

You can find out more about our roadmaps in the video below: 

Last year, we launched two major reports – ‘Closing the Gap’ and ‘Reimagining a Net Zero North Sea: an integrated energy vision for 2050’ – which highlighted where the greatest impact for UKCS innovation will be, and what the North Sea could look by 2050.

The UK and Scottish governments legislative commitments to net zero have made our destination as a nation clear.

However we need clarity on how to get there

To attract and grow the investment we need from both industry and government, we need some clear short, medium and long goals. To transition to this new diversified energy mix, we need to develop the right skills, install the right manufacturing capability and own the technology innovation to thrive in this new green space.

We have the assets, we have huge wind potential, we have world class carbon sequestration assets, we have amazing infrastructure and we have a highly skilled workforce. Pace is required, together with recognition that there is no single energy solution in this new world. We need to capitalise on our assets, commit to being great at floating wind, excellent at blue and green hydrogen and deliver cost effective carbon management solutions for the UK and Europe. And even better if we can do this while being more diverse and more inclusive.

We need to retain, retrain and attract a workforce and engage with our communities. STEM activities are important for OGTC and over the years, we’ve delivered everything from Lego building leagues to immersive reality sessions for budding engineers. Even in the face of the pandemic, we launched Inspire20 to help demystify career paths in the energy sector. And this commitment to the next generation is even more important today.

We need to create a future-focused, flexible working environment and partner cross sector to enable effective diversification. Our alliance with the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult is one collaboration which has already helped to reimagine what an integrated North Sea could look like, and together we are launching several major projects and competitions to accelerate low carbon technologies.

A net zero future is challenging to deliver. It will take time to transition to this new normal.  The UK oil and gas industry has a role to play, delivering essential fossil fuel with a net zero footprint, so we keep our hospitals running, our addiction to PCs and mobile phones fed and have the ability to deliver a huge scale up of wind in the North Sea. All enabled by oil and gas.

Emil Cioran said that: “Progress is the injustice each generation commits with regard to its predecessors” and that has never been more true.

In my role as a Just Transition Commissioner, I have also been struck by the impact of this net zero vision on all segments. This is not a fossil fuel dilemma, it impacts every business, every sector and the way we live our lives. And to succeed, we all need to shift our mindset and see the dilemma as a huge opportunity.  

OGTC has been working with industry, cross sector, and with academia to identify the technology innovation we need to deliver an affordable net zero North Sea. To reimagine the North Sea. It will take us all working together. It will take resilience, commitment and chocolate!

“The future depends on what we do in the present”, Mahatma Gandhi

I’d like to build on the foundations we have created in OGTC in the first four years. Aligned with industry’s vision, government’s targets and our culture of innovation and working together. I am excited for the future, excited that some of our best moments are still to come……

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