The Dutch oil and gas industry wants to halve offshore methane emissions in two years' time. Achieving this will require reliable measurement data. TNO has extensive expertise in mobile emissions measurement onshore. The State Supervision of Mines (SSM) asked NOGEPA to conduct these measurements in the North Sea too. The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) was also involved in the preparatory work.
This type of accurate greenhouse gas measurement from a ship at sea presents a logistical challenge and is unique in its implementation. Measurements by TNO showed that the methane values correspond to the figures provided by the industry. Jo Peters, Secretary-General of NOGEPA: “Our industry feels strengthened by this outcome. TNO's measurements confirm that the reporting of methane emissions by the oil and gas sector provides a reliable picture of our emissions. The next step to follow is to further reduce emissions from our activities.”
The campaign saw TNO conduct offshore measurements for the first time for the gas platforms in the North Sea. An important methodological difference is how gases and particles from a source, such as a gas production platform, enter the air and spread differently with the wind than over land. This makes this measurement campaign unique. The last time a similar study was carried out was in the United States more than 30 years ago. In total, measurements were carried out alongside fifty platforms in Dutch waters. A limitation is that each measurement merely provides a snapshot of each platform's emissions. TNO researcher Ilona Velzeboer: “Although individual emissions deviate both higher and lower from the figures provided by the operators, the overall figures do correspond well to each other. This leads to the conclusion that the sector has its figures in order.”
Halving offshore methane emissions
Validated figures are important for the sector. In August, the oil and gas industry signed a covenant with Minister Eric Wiebes (Economic Affairs and Climate Policy) to halve methane emissions – an important greenhouse gas – in the North Sea in just two years. To achieve this, the oil and gas companies are taking numerous measures to intervene in the gas production process until the end of 2020. At present, some natural gas produced is still used directly to supply energy onboard the offshore platforms. Switching to renewable electricity leads to a large reduction in CO2 emissions and also offers an effective option for reducing methane emissions even further. In the covenant, both parties agreed to further study what preconditions will be needed to achieve electrification of offshore installations and how further emission reductions would be possible beyond 2020.