The Potential of Repurposing
Over the last 75 years, roughly 7000 platforms have been installed in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM). Additionally, the GOM infrastructure includes 14,000 wells and 10,000 miles of pipelines (Figure 1). These assets, once they reach the end of their fossil energy purpose, are “decommissioned,” usually meaning plugged and abandoned (wells), removed or preserved in place (pipelines), taken apart and brought back to shore, or sunk to the ocean floor (platforms and structures).
A sizeable fraction of this infrastructure can instead be reused for clean energy projects given the right structural and geospatial conditions, technology improvements and federal and state incentives. Platforms and other structures can be used to support equipment for wind energy and hydrogen generation, pipelines can be used to bring hydrogen to shore. These ROICE projects can extend the life of installed infrastructure, reduce carbon footprint vs new build, generate clean energy jobs and revenue, and prolong the positive ecological impacts of these structures.
UH Energy ROICE Initiatives
To realize this potential, many challenges facing such ROICE projects will need to be addressed. A key one is project economics. Along with the well-known challenge of the levelized cost differential between low-carbon electric power and the current fossil-based power generation, and between low-carbon hydrogen and current industrial hydrogen, moving the systems offshore adds additional costs.
Other technical challenges include ensuring structural integrity and remaining life of the offshore installations (for repurposing projects), reducing the costs of large-scale electrolysis and wind power through economies of scale, finding other cost reductions such as saline water electrolysis technologies, repurposing hydrocarbon pipelines for hydrogen transportation etc. In addition, the regulatory framework, commercial and liability considerations, and public acceptance aspects need to be addressed.
To address these challenges and develop a comprehensive framework for ROICE projects in the US GOM, the UH Energy program at the University of Houston launched the ROICE program with two key initiatives. The first of these is ROICE Techno-Economics (ROICE-TE), which will establish the techno-economic feasibility of a subset of ROICE projects that bring together three components – repurposing existing offshore infrastructure, harnessing wind energy and generating hydrogen from sea water. Other clean energy use cases will be considered in future phases of this work.
The second initiative is ROICE Project Framework (ROICE-PF). It is a set of seven workgroups that will develop the ROICE Project Implementation Framework (PIF), covering regulatory, commercial, and technical considerations that need to be put in place to make ROICE projects successful. These workgroups are made up of key stakeholders from industry, academia, and policy groups. They will develop a set of white papers that are expected to be valuable reference materials as commercial ROICE projects move forward.
Additional Project Information
- Dr. Ram Seetharam, UH Energy Center Officer
- Yugbhai Patel, Junior, Honors Program Physics
- Muhammad Younas, Ph.D. Candidate, Geophysics
- Paulo Liu, Ph.D. Candidate, Petroleum Engineering
ROICE Techno Economics-Phase 1 Reports
ROICE Project Framework
This project was paid for [in part] with federal funding from the Department of the Treasury through the State of Texas under the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act of 2012 (RESTORE Act). The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the State of Texas or the Department of the Treasury.