The role of
greener gas in energy transition by NAM
NAM, a joint venture between Shell and Exxon Mobil, has been engaged in the exploration and extraction of natural gas and oil from land and sea in Dutch territories since 1947. It focuses on both the development of new locations and optimisation of existing ones using the latest technologies and infrastructure to do this as cost-effectively, and with as little environmental impact, as possible. The organisation aims to be a leading partner in Dutch energy transition.
We spoke to Martijn Kleverlaan at NAM who has worked for Shell for over 20 years, largely overseas, but returned to the Netherlands in 2014 to join NAM. For the last 3 years, he has been the Energy Transition Manager, responsible for reducing the overall CO2 footprint of NAM’s gas business and identifying synergies with the latest developments in energy conversion, storage and usage.
An interview with Martijn Kleverlaan,
Energy Transition Manager at NAM
My role is focused primarily on energy transition in relation to gas extraction, which is still an important part of the energy mix in terms of meeting overall demand for energy, while offering 50% less CO2 emissions than coal. We are also focused on further reducing CO2 from our operations, such as in Ameland, an island in the North Sea, where we have been working with the municipality and other energy partners to make the island 100% sustainable. For us, it is key to join hands with (local) stakeholders in order to collectively find the best solution for all.
There are also a number of major investments required in relation to the Dutch climate agreement where we can use our existing experience of subsurface and largescale projects to contribute; for example, offshore carbon capture storage, hydrogen and geothermal. Carbon capture storage, particularly from large industrial emitters, is fundamental to rapidly reducing CO2 while keeping energy production stable. NAM can store CO2 in empty offshore gas fields and, as the largest natural gas extractor in the Netherlands, we see an important role for ourselves in investigating how the gas reservoirs can be used for this new purpose in the near future.
Geothermal also offers opportunities for our onshore wells, particularly where they are close to centres of heat demand; for example, residential areas, greenhouses and industries. Water is drawn from a well and passed through a heat exchanger, to extract the heat, and then fed back into the ground through a second well. The higher the heat requirement, the deeper the drilling requirement and obviously this plays to NAM’s strengths because we are highly experienced at deep drilling wells and managing the subsurface. We plan to offer our expertise in these areas, working with partners to implement projects once we have defined the optimum model for doing this.
Energy transition is part technical challenge, part societal challenge. Ultimately, society wants a reliable and affordable energy system and NAM has been providing this for a long time. Gas is an important energy transition fuel although we accept that we
need to make sure that, in delivering it, our operations are as sustainable as possible.
Can you talk about NAM’s activities?
We have many offshore installations in the North Sea. Some use very little energy but others; for example, where gas is compressed and transported to land by pipeline, require significantly more. There has been a large offshore gas processing platform near Ameland since 1986 which self-powers its operational compressors, lamps, systems, etc. using energy from the gas it extracts and this accounted for approximately 10% of all extraction. To improve efficiency and reduce CO2 and NOx emissions, we decided to electrify the platform, by connecting it to the onshore electricity grid, and switching to electrically driven equipment. Achieving this required an upgrade to Ameland’s power grid which, in turn, presented a broader opportunity for renewable energy generation and integration over time. As a result, we have worked with the municipality and energy partners on a plan for the island’s energy to be 100% sustainable in the future.
There is an appetite to do something similar with other large installations; for example, the K-14 platform located
Alfen is providing smart grid support to NAM in a project to provide electricity to offshore assets.
Can you tell us about that?
90km off the coast of Den Helder. The distance to land is greater but there are also offshore wind farms being built there and so we are consulting with the Ministry of Economic Affairs and grid operator, TenneT, about the scope for us to connect directly to the offshore high-voltage grid. If we can make it work, it could also offer scope to make other offshore platforms greener. Additionally, it could open the doors for greening of other sectors; for example, shipping.
Ultimately, there has to be a sensible business case
that coincides with a shift towards sustainability. At Ameland, this was relatively simple because the numbers stacked up for selling the gas we produced that wasn’t used for powering the platform. The K-14 platform isn’t so straightforward as it is located further offshore, and an onshore connection requires larger investment. The financial case for innovation becomes stronger when CO2 becomes more expensive. Incentives to encourage energy transition, such as SDE++ in the Netherlands, also help.
" Ultimately, society wants a reliable and
affordable energy system and NAM
has been providing this for a long time "
If you directly translate our tagline, it reads ‘Source of energy’ and that pretty much sums up our ambition.
We are still the largest primary energy company in the Netherlands and we would like to stay that way, while changing with the times, to become more sustainable.
We consider it important to keep dialogue going with government and industry partners in order to identify synergies and opportunities to work together in energy transition.
Can you tell us about NAM’s vision of the future?
Can you reflect on your relationship with Alfen?
Alfens’ tagline, ‘Power to adapt’ is very strong.
Systems only work if everything is safe and reliable;
that is what we look for in our partners and we have found it in Alfen. They innovate, and are continuously looking for clever solutions to challenges, but never compromise quality or reliability. They understand that any solution must also be affordable and safe.