Many energy companies are increasing their focus on carbon capture and storage (CCS) as part of a broader move toward reducing the carbon footprint of oil and gas operations.
For some organizations, these initiatives have emerged in response to investors’ demands for better environmental stewardship. For others, where there is an established culture of addressing climate change, reducing the impact of E&P operations is integral to every decision on every development.
Equinor is one of the latter. The company is a pioneer in carbon reduction and has been setting standards for sustainable oil and gas development since it took on the challenge of establishing a CO₂ storage program on the Sleipner Field in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea more than a quarter of a century ago. Since that time, the company has been involved in more than 40 CCS-related projects and continues to invest to develop increasingly effective CCS technologies.
“On average, Equinor’s fields have a carbon footprint that is less than half of the global average.”—Torstein Hole, Equinor ASA
Advancing carbon reduction technologies
Focusing its carbon reduction efforts on installations offshore Norway, the company has implemented a range of strategies that collectively have decreased emissions from Norwegian platforms from 8.8 million metric tons of CO₂ in 2008 to 7.4 million metric tons in 2021, a decline of 1.4 million metric tons/year.
With the Bay du Nord development in the deepwater Flemish Pass Basin offshore Newfoundland, Equinor is looking to employ carbon-reduction technologies to reduce the environmental impact of oil and gas operations in Atlantic Canada.
“Equinor is a global leader in subsea technology and innovation and brings 50 years of harsh-environment operating experience to the challenging environment offshore Newfoundland,” said Torstein Hole, country manager for Equinor Canada.
Bay du Nord, discovered by Equinor in 2013, lies in 1,170 m water depth approximately 500 km offshore Newfoundland. The development comprises discoveries made in 2014 and 2016 as well as the most recent discoveries, Cappahayden and Cambriol, in 975 m and 613 m water depths, in exploration license EL1156. Equinor is considering these as potential tie-ins to Bay du Nord.
“Since the initial discovery in 2013, we have worked to mature the Bay du Nord development project to ensure that it is well-positioned for successful execution,” Hole said.
Applying proven solutions
The expertise the company brings to the region will enable proven carbon management technologies that have delivered results in other regions of the world to be applied in Atlantic Canada.
“On average, Equinor’s fields have a carbon footprint that is less than half of the global average,” Hole says, explaining that this has been achieved by designing fields for minimal energy use, avoiding flaring, “and implementing a raft of energy efficiency measures that in some cases include powering fields with renewable energy.”
While Bay du Nord is in the early phase of development, Equinor is focused on exploring potential technology integration and innovation to improve safety and efficiency and is looking into opportunities to reduce emissions.
For example, “Equinor is evaluating a closed loop gas recovery flare system that will ensure no routine flaring—the first use of this technology offshore Canada,” Hole says. “Another advanced technology is the use of combined cycle technology, where we will harvest waste heat created during production and turn it into a source of energy, thereby significantly reducing a facility’s carbon footprint.
“As we continue to mature Bay du Nord, we are committed to the continued exploration of new technologies and opportunities that optimize operations and further reduce carbon emissions,” Hole says, noting that he anticipates Bay du Nord will see the use of technology related to robotics and drones, artificial intelligence and machine learning.
All these efforts are aimed at making this a landmark project, Hole says. “Bay du Nord has the potential to be the lowest carbon intensity project of its scale in Canada.”
Investing in the future
The Bay du Nord development will be carried out in alignment with the company’s Energy Transition Plan, which was launched earlier this year.
Underscoring Equinor’s commitment to long-term value creation in support of the goals of the Paris Agreement, the plan is built on three pillars:
- Focused, carbon-efficient oil and gas production;
- Accelerated, value-driven expansion in renewables; and
- Leadership in building out new low-carbon technologies and value chains.
The Energy Transition Plan is foundational in moving the organization toward the ambitious goal of achieving net zero in 2050, which Hole says includes emissions from the use of sold products.
Toward that end, the company is investing in R&D targeting renewables, CCS, hydrogen and other low-carbon technologies.
Locally, within the province, Equinor is an active research partner through Energy Research and Innovation NL, a not-for-profit organization that identifies collaborative research, development and demonstration opportunities and facilitates projects on behalf of Newfoundland and Labrador’s offshore oil and gas industry. The company participates in Canada’s Ocean Supercluster, an industry-led group that is driving cross-sector collaboration to accelerate innovation and grow Canada’s ocean economy. Equinor also is a participant in the Digital Offshore Canada project—a platform for developing and commercializing digital twins for a range of applications in Canada’s offshore, as well as other ocean industries.
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