Tuesday 7 May 2024

North Sea drilling to extend beyond net zero

North Sea drilling to extend beyond net zero

North Sea oil drilling is set to persist for years beyond Britain‘s net zero deadline, with officials granting approval for 31 new licences for oil and gas exploration.

These licences, allocated to fossil fuel companies, are projected to extend production until as late as 2060, marking an extension of approximately two decades beyond previous estimates.

The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) has issued 51 additional licences since October – in total, these licences will empower offshore operators to extract fossil fuels equivalent to an additional 600 million barrels of oil.

David Whitehouse, Chief Executive Officer of Offshore Energies UK, has underscored the advantages of these new licences, emphasising their contribution to securing a reliable supply of domestically produced gas.

David Whitehouse commented:  “New oil and gas licences benefit every sector in the UK. They will help to bring secure supplies of homegrown gas into our grid, reducing our reliance on more carbon intensive imports from overseas.

“These licences will help to protect jobs and power and heat the nation’s firms and homes as we build the next generation of low carbon infrastructure here in the UK.  

“We all recognise that our energy mix must change, and our sector is ramping up renewables and accelerating the drive to net zero. But this journey will take time.

“Meanwhile our North Sea basin is naturally declining. We have over 280 oil and gas fields but by the end of the decade 180 of them will have stopped producing.  We need the churn of licences for an orderly transition that supports jobs and communities across the country and meets our energy needs.”

Nevertheless, critics, including Jess Ralston, an Energy Analyst at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, have voiced apprehensions regarding the decision.

Jess Ralston said: “Flying in the face of advice from experts like the International Energy Agency and United Nations, who have said that reducing demand is the way to energy independence, new North Sea licences won’t help to lower bills because the oil and gas will be sold to the highest bidder by the companies that get it out of the ground.”

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