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Oil and Gas Innovation Programme

NERC is currently developing an innovation activity with the oil and gas sector. In scoping what this will look like, NERC focus is to understand the challenges and issues facing the sector as a whole, and where opportunities exist for NERC-remit science to be translated for its maximum economic and societal impact.

The following themes are currently being explored:

  • Unconventional hydrocarbons. Unconventional oil and gas (eg shale oil and gas resources) is an important part of the energy debate. Environmental science can provide independent evidence and expertise on the feasibility and safety of these resources, and inform industry's efforts to boost its efficiency and manage its environmental impact.

  • Extending the life of mature basins. Mature basins such as the UK's North Sea contain very significant amounts of unrecovered hydrocarbons. Identifying and producing new resources in a cost-effective and environmentally sensitive way is technically challenging. This theme could include novel approaches to data analysis and interpretation as well as areas such as enhanced oil recovery (EOR).

  • Exploration in challenging environments. Large oil and gas resources are still present in environments in which exploration, appraisal and production are challenging, and where conventional technologies are inadequate. This theme also includes the identification and assessment of risks from environmental hazards to offshore infrastructure.

  • Decommissioning and environmental management. Reducing the environmental impact of oil and gas extraction is a key priority for the sector. Improvements in the scientific understanding and technology used during hydrocarbon resource extraction will result in lower levels of environmental impact and will directly influence UK oil and gas industry regulations. Another key challenge for the sector is the environmental impacts of offshore infrastructure, including the assessment of decommissioning options. Note this is a cross-cutting theme which could be included in any of the above themes.

Oil and gas innovation scoping workshops

In collaboration with the NERC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Oil and Gas based at Heriot-Watt University, NERC is hosting a series of scoping workshops to bring together industry, academic and government representatives to identify the biggest challenges facing the oil and gas sector in the UK and the opportunities for NERC-remit science to be translated to address these and inform decision-making.

Two scoping workshops were held in early 2015. Summary reports from these workshops are below:

NERC Innovation scoping workshop summary report - Decommissioning (PDF, 553KB)

NERC Innovation scoping workshop summary report - Extending the life of mature basins in the UKCS and west of Shetland (PDF, 532KB)

Oil and gas pump priming funding

NERC has funded a number of oil and gas innovation pump priming activities to develop new partnerships and collaborations between researchers and the oil and gas industry and to build on existing partnerships and collaborations. The outputs of these will help us explore the above themes and additional opportunities for the innovation programme.

An initial funding call for the Innovation Programme is focused on decommissioning and its environmental management.


Sarah Keynes
01793 411541