The UK Government have announced a landmark North Sea Transition Deal as part of the UK’s commitment to the energy transition and commitment to meet net zero emissions targets.
The Deal will support workers, businesses, and the supply chain through this transition by harnessing the industry’s existing capabilities, infrastructure and private investment potential to exploit new and emerging technologies such as hydrogen production, Carbon Capture Usage and Storage, offshore wind and decommissioning.
The significance of this deal is huge for Heriot-Watt University research and training capabilities through its leadership of the Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in GeoNetZero (GNZ) on behalf of an industry-academic partnership consisting of 8 industry sponsors and 12 UK Universities.
The CDT is affiliated with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).
The CDT in GNZ programme, focuses on geoscience and its role in the low carbon energy transition and the challenge to meet net-zero emissions targets. The programme is a unique combination of PhD research and training by world leaders that focuses on progressing the transition to a low carbon energy economy through geology-focussed projects and theses.
Industry and academia have already pledged initial support to this newly formed scheme by contributing £7.5 million to set the programme up via £5 million towards PhD research scholarships and £2.5 million to underpin an accompanying bespoke 20-week training programme. The research funding will cover the costs for a total of 48 students who will participate and complete the programme in three annual cohorts starting in 2020-22.
Professor John Underhill, the Academic Director of the GeoNetZero CDT from HWU’s Institute of GeoEnergy Engineering (IGE) said: “I am absolutely delighted that the GeoNetZero (GNZ) Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) forms a key part of the UK Government's North Sea Transition Deal (NSTD) that was announced.
“Inclusion of the GNZ CDT in the Deal demonstrates the success and relevance that the Heriot-Watt led program has for the Energy Transition in general and the challenge to meet the UK's net zero emission targets in particular.
“The announcement underlines the value the UK Government attaches to the GNZ CDT's training and research effort and paves the way for additional support and funding for the program.”
The CDT is building the next generation of geoscientists to tackle the energy transition. The first cohort, successfully recruited 16 students from over 260 high quality applications it received; the second cohort received over 350 high-calibre applications and has led to a further 16 students being recruited in 2021.
The government will work with the CDT to help ensure more students can benefit and, in turn, bring their expertise into the workforce to address the low carbon energy transition, extend the life of the North Sea by overseeing the re-purposing of existing infrastructure and ensure that the basin attains its net zero emission targets.
Professor Sebastian Geiger, Institute of GeoEnergy Engineering (IGE) said: "I am absolutely delighted to learn that the importance of the GeoNetZero CDT is recognised in the North Sea Transition Deal, as it is the only entity included in the postgraduate training section. It is a testament to Professor Underhill's prowess and vision, and highlights the leadership of Heriot-Watt University's Institute of Geoenergy Engineering in providing key knowledge, training, and technology that will accelerate the transition to a greener, more sustainable, and low-carbon energy future".
Through the Deal, the oil and gas sector, largely based in Scotland and the North East, government and trade unions will work together over the next decade and beyond to deliver the skills, innovation and new infrastructure required to decarbonise North Sea production.
Not only will the Deal support existing companies to decarbonise in preparation for a net zero future by 2050, but it will also create the right business environment to attract new industrial sectors to base themselves in the UK, develop new export opportunities for British business, and secure new high-value jobs for the long-term.
The Deal is expected to cut pollution by up to 60 million tonnes by 2030 including 15 million tonnes from oil and gas production on the UK Continental Shelf - the equivalent of annual emissions from 90% of the UK’s homes - while supporting up to 40,000 jobs across the supply chain.