Shell pioneers solar-powered gas

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The Independent Online

The world's first gas platform powered solely by wind and solar energy has begun production, in a breakthrough for the offshore industry in low-cost exploitation of marginal fields.

Royal Dutch Shell will announce today that it has begun pumping gas from its Cutter platform in the UK southern North Sea. The tiny platform, powered by two wind turbines and a pair of solar panels, cost £80m to develop and is expected to produce gas at the rate of some 3 million cubic feet a day for the next 15 years.

The concept of such oil and gas platforms, powered using only renewable energy, has been developed to allow smaller pockets of oil and gas to be recovered economically without adding to harmful carbon emissions.

The Cutter platform, about half the size of conventional satellite platforms and built for 40 per cent of the cost, uses only a fraction of the energy of traditional oil installations. It measures just eight metres by eight and has no helideck. Based on the construction of offshore wind turbines, it rests on a single leg.

Malcolm Wicks, the UK's Energy minister, welcomed the development as "a real example of innovative thinking", while Tom Botts, Shell's executive vice-president for European exploration and production, said it demonstrated the company's commitment both to the North Sea and to environmentally sustainable design.

Shell has a 51.3 per cent stake in the platform and Exxon Mobil owns the remaining 48.7 per cent.

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