April 25, 2022
The upstream carbon intensity of Equinor’s oil operations is a major component of its ambition to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Most offshore oil production is powered by CO₂-emitting gas turbines and on average, about 15 kg of CO2 were generated for each barrel of oil equivalent (boe) produced worldwide in 2021. Equinor achieved a world-beating 7 kg CO₂/boe in 2021 and its ambition is to reduce that further by 2030 to 6 kg CO₂/boe. Electrification of its offshore oil operations – especially on its massive Johan Sverdrup oilfield – will be key to achieving that aim.
In 2018, Equinor started laying cable to the Johan Sverdrup field in western Norway from a converter station which is connected to the Norwegian power grid. Oil production on Johan Sverdrup began in October 2019 and that electrification has already contributed to a reduction in the company’s upstream carbon intensity.
Now Equinor is laying cable to electrify the field’s expansion and aims to link several platforms in the area, using technology that is well-established in transmitting power across long distances but has not been leveraged extensively in oil extraction.
Johan Sverdrup will serve as a connector for electricity to flow to other oilfields off the Norwegian coast. By 2040, Equinor projects that electrification initiatives like these, among other emission reduction measures, will slash emissions from the Norwegian Continental Shelf by 70%, a major plank of Norway’s overall climate ambitions. By global standards, the country has a high carbon tax and generates a large share of its electricity from carbon-free sources – factors which have compelled Equinor to shift towards electrification.
As of 2020, producing one barrel of oil from Johan Sverdrup generated less than 0.2 kg of CO2 – among the lowest in the world. This has helped Equinor reduce its scope 1 and 2 emissions to 12.1million tonnes CO2e in 2021, compared to 14.9m tonnes in 2019. Over the course of the extraction of its roughly 2.7 billion barrels of oil equivalent, Johan Sverdrup is expected to remain at the vanguard of low-carbon oil production, averaging 0.7 kg CO₂/boe.
Electrification is growing in importance as a lever in the low-carbon transition for oil and gas companies. One report from the UK suggests that it could reduce emissions by 2-3 MtCO2 by 2030 among oil and gas operations in that country. And Equinor is not alone: BP, Shell and TotalEnergies have all been exploring electrification, including the possibility of connecting to Norway’s clean power grid.
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