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NEWS & INSIGHTS | article

Game-changing technology propelling the energy transition

26 April 2023 4 minute read
Written by Myrtle Dawes

Technology innovation and digital transformation are fundamental to the energy transition. Realising the value of nascent technologies takes time, however the urgency for energy security and affordability against the backdrop of the climate crisis that envelops us, means time is not on our side.

Scotland’s Net Zero Technology Centre (NZTC) is at the forefront of the energy transition, developing and deploying technologies that reduce emissions, unlocks the full potential of an integrated energy system and propels the energy industry towards a digital, automated, decarbonised future.

Reducing emissions from offshore operations, whether through eliminating leaks, flaring and venting or employing low emission logistic strategies, and reusing and repurposing infrastructure must be a priority for the offshore energy industry. There have been many technology advances in this space, for example, Corrosion Under Insulation (CUI) continues to be one of the key integrity challenges associated with insulated equipment. Technology developer Copsys was selected as one of 20 game changing solutions in NZTC’s 2022 Open Innovation Programme.

Copsys Intelligent Digital Skin detects and locates coating barrier damage or CUI hotspots in real time before corrosion damage can occur. The integrated impressed current cathodic protection within the coating creates an entirely new category of continuous sensor technology. Consisting of an epoxy resin with Copsys proprietary additives and proprietary polyamine hardener, Copsys Intelligent Digital Skin is the first technology to digitally detect and locate coating damage.

Along with Siemens Energy, the Centre has recently completed a key deliverable in its Alternative Fuel for Gas Turbines project with a successful pilot of running an aero-derived gas turbine on green methanol. This type of R&D is a big step towards enabling some offshore assets to operate using low carbon fuels without extensive modifications. The use of green methanol has the potential to cut carbon dioxide emissions by up to 70% compared to conventional fuels across the UKCS.

Carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS) is not only a proven method for emissions reduction but is also an attractive opportunity for traditional oil and gas companies looking to diversify their energy operations. NZTC worked with Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology developer CO₂CirculAir to secure BEIS funding for its SMART-DAC technology. The novel solution captures CO₂ directly from air by utilising natural airflow, avoiding using energy-intensive air blowers, while harnessing renewable energy to power the absorbent regeneration process —making it a near zero emissions solution for CO₂ capture.

Hydrogen will facilitate various decarbonisation applications with projects in flight illustrating the potential and progress in hydrogen transport. NZTC’s Hydrogen Backbone project considers how a hydrogen pipeline network could be established between the proposed energy hubs and existing national grid infrastructure linking ports and other infrastructure. Whilst the Centre’s Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carrier (LOHC) for Hydrogen Transport from Scotland (LHyTS) project, delivered by a diverse, international consortium, including Axens, Chiyoda, EnQuest, ERM, Koole Terminals, Port of Rotterdam, Scottish Government, Shetland Islands Council, Suncor and Storegga will demonstrate that LOHC, in the form of methylcyclohexane (MCH), can be successfully transported at scale, providing an export route to the Port of Rotterdam and other European destinations.

Digitally based technologies empowered by data, robotics and autonomous systems will optimise and enable remotely controlled operations. Placing technology at the forefront of operations, NZTC’s Offshore Low Touch Energy Robotics and Autonomous Systems (OLTER) is delivering the competences necessary to engage, anchor and utilise a robotics and autonomous systems supply chain. Beyond Visual Line of Sight demonstrators have shown the art of the possible, by using commercial drones to autonomously deliver critical payloads across onshore sites. Further demonstrations for air, land and sea-based robotics will take place in 2023 in an offshore environment supporting the development of best practice to inform industry standards.

Innovation is happening, and transformation is sweeping our world, albeit adoption and scaling is slow. Increased investment in clean energy technologies, economies of scale and regulation will help to de-risk technology and bring down costs. This is an exciting time for the offshore energy industry and it’s only just the beginning.

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