What will the UK push for more North Sea oil and gas really achieve?

What will the UK push for more North Sea oil and gas really achieve?

Oil and gasoline output within the North Sea is in decline

Frode Koppang/Alamy Inventory Picture

The UK plans to difficulty a minimum of 100 new oil and gasoline licences within the North Sea in a bid to maximise home extraction of fossil fuels.

This was already deliberate to occur later this 12 months beneath a licensing spherical introduced in October 2022 by the North Sea Transition Authority, however acquired  recent backing on 31 July from prime minister Rishi Sunak throughout a go to to a gasoline plant in Aberdeenshire. “That is about strengthening our power safety for the entire of the UK,” he instructed the BBC.

The transfer has sparked alarm among climate scientists and fury from activists, who level to warnings from the Worldwide Power Company, amongst others, that new oil and gasoline improvement is incompatible with world objectives to realize net-zero emissions by 2050.

However how a lot harm might the UK authorities’s pro-fossil gasoline stance truly wreak?

In carbon phrases, the impression is prone to be comparatively small. Whereas 100 new licences would possibly look like rather a lot, a lot of these gained’t lead to new manufacturing, factors out Mike Tholen of business physique Offshore Energies UK. “It’s like you might be off the starter blocks,” he says. “However not all of these 100 licences… will truly proceed to full improvement of a brand new area. Quite a bit die on the best way.”

In truth, even with new developments, the UK’s oil and gasoline business will stay in a state of managed decline. Trade projections, printed in February, present oil manufacturing dropping from round 40 million tonnes of oil equal in 2023 to lower than 10 million tonnes by 2050, whereas gasoline manufacturing is ready to fall from greater than 35 million tonnes of oil equal to round 2 million tonnes in 2050. Each trajectories embody improvement from future discoveries.

For the UK’s oil and gasoline business, “that is usually about benefiting from what we now have obtained as we gently fade off the scene”, says Tholen.

The UK is already a internet importer of oil and gasoline, and that’s unlikely to alter even with a renewed push for North Sea improvement, says Adam Bell, a former head of power technique for the UK authorities’s power division who’s now on the consultancy Stonehaven.

“My tackle that is that new licences don’t actually make any distinction when the North Sea is operating out anyway,” he says. “They [the oil and gas industry] aren’t going to magically discover a new area that makes up for the huge collapse in output the sphere has seen over the past twenty years.”

However the authorities’s renewed enthusiasm for oil and gasoline sends a worrying sign internationally, says Bell. With carbon seize and storage nonetheless in its infancy – regardless of information this week that two pilot tasks in Scotland and the Humber are on track to be developed by 2030 – pushing ahead with new oil and gasoline is a “problem to our worldwide credibility” on local weather issues, he says.

Local weather campaigners are exasperated. They level out the UK is in a really perfect place to be among the many first international locations on this planet to show their again on oil and gasoline, given the North Sea’s pure decline in reserves, its worldwide standing as a small-scale producer and its political affect on local weather issues. Clinging to continued, dwindling manufacturing as an alternative of seizing the prospect to set a world-leading phase-down agenda is the other of true local weather management, they argue.

In isolation, maybe the information of latest oil and gasoline licences might be neglected. However set along with information that the UK is winding again plans to make rental properties extra power environment friendly, wavering on a promise to ban the sale of latest petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030 and prone to miss its pledge to offer £11.6 billion in local weather assist, there’s a normal sense the UK goes delicate on local weather points, says Tessa Khan of UK NGO Uplift, which campaigns towards new oil and gasoline improvement.

Finally, that may water down the UK’s affect in key worldwide boards, together with the COP28 summit in Dubai later this 12 months.

“The UK goes to have a extremely laborious time sustaining that it has any declare to management when it comes to local weather internationally, if it retains up these sorts of coverage bulletins,” says Khan.


  • local weather change/
  • fossil fuels

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