UK to drill more oil and gas from North Sea despite environmental concerns

North sea drilling

It’s been announced by the government that it aims to kickstart drilling operations in the North Sea for oil and gas, despite protests for environmental protestors.

According to the government, high-skilled oil and gas workers and the supply chain will not be left behind in the transition to a low carbon future, as a part of the ‘landmark’ North Sea Transition Deal.

The sector deal between the UK government and oil and gas industry will support workers, businesses, and the supply chain through this transition by harnessing the industry’s existing capabilities, infrastructure and private investment potential to exploit new and emerging technologies such as hydrogen production, Carbon Capture Usage and Storage, offshore wind and decommissioning.

Through the Deal, the oil and gas sector, largely based in Scotland and the North East, government and trade unions will work together over the next decade and beyond to deliver the skills, innovation and new infrastructure required to decarbonise North Sea production.

Not only will the Deal support existing companies to decarbonise in preparation for a net-zero future by 2050, but it will also create the right business environment to attract new industrial sectors to base themselves in the UK, develop new export opportunities for British business, and secure new high-value jobs for the long-term.

Extracting oil and gas on the UK Continental Shelf is directly responsible for around 3.5% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. Through the package of measures, the Deal is expected to cut pollution by up to 60 million tonnes by 2030 including 15 million tonnes from oil and gas production on the UK Continental Shelf – the equivalent of annual emissions from 90% of the UK’s homes – while supporting up to 40,000 jobs across the supply chain.

Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Today, we are sending a clear message around the world that the UK will be a nation of clean energy as we build back better and greener from the pandemic. We will not leave oil and gas workers behind in the United Kingdom’s irreversible shift away from fossil fuels. Through this landmark sector deal, we will harness the skills, capabilities and pent-up private investment potential of the oil and gas sector to power the green industrial revolution, turning its focus to the next-generation clean technologies the UK needs to support a green economy.

“At every step on the path to net-zero emissions, we will create the right conditions for new green industries to base themselves in the UK and create new high-value employment opportunities, while future-proofing existing businesses to secure the long-term viability of jobs in our industrial heartlands.”

Pros and cons of the announcement

Following the news about the North Sea Transition Deal, debates around the UK’s Net Zero 2050 target and whether the UK is taking its sustainability goals seriously.

For the deal

Chief Executive of Oil & Gas UK Deirdre Michie said: “The North Sea Transition Deal is a transformative partnership which will harness the expertise of the UK offshore oil and gas industry to urgently meet the country’s climate ambitions of net zero emissions by 2050. It will unlock billions of pounds of investment and see government and industry work together to deliver a homegrown energy transition, realising innovative low carbon solutions that can be exported globally. The Deal will safeguard UK energy security, providing affordable energy to millions of households, secure tens of thousands of jobs in industrial heartlands across the country and support the UK economy. It is the first deal of its kind by any G7 country and a striking example of the UK showing global leadership on climate change ahead of COP26.”

Chief Executive of the Oil & Gas Authority, Dr Andy Samuel said: “This deal marks an exciting new chapter for the North Sea, confirming energy transition in action. It is the culmination of a lot of work between government, industry and the OGA. As long as oil and gas remain part of the UK’s energy mix, they must be produced more cleanly and in line with net-zero. Our role includes monitoring and holding industry to account on its emissions reduction performance. The recent funding for a number of energy transition projects is very timely. We are happy to be supporting projects like Acorn, Hynet, Net Zero Teeside and Zero Carbon Humber, along with the Energy Transition Zone and the Global Underwater Hub. Our studies show how the UK Continental Shelf can provide 60% of the UK’s overall carbon reduction requirements to meet Net Zero 2050, through electrification, carbon capture and storage, hydrogen and offshore wind.”

Against the deal

Mel Evans from Greenpeace said: “This is a colossal failure. The UK will make a fool of itself in the run-up to hosting the COP26 global climate talks if our energy minister signs off on new oil and gas licences that serve to rip up the Paris Agreement (the world deal to hold global temperature rise to 1.5C). We know the government has already approved too much oil and gas extraction to meet our climate obligations under Paris, and the oil industry itself says that we’ve passed peak oil demand.”

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