Licences offered to dozens of North Sea oil and gas projects

The UK’s North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) has offered 27 new licences for oil and gas production projects, stating that it has selected these projects as they have the potential to be developed more quickly.

Licences offered to dozens of North Sea oil and gas projects

The Authority confirmed today (30 October) that it had received 115 applications for the first tranche of the UK’s 33rd Oil and Gas Licencing Round, the highest number of applications since the Round held in 2016-17.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confirmed that this season’s round would go ahead back in July, despite concerns voiced by green groups and the UK Government’s own advisors at the Climate Change Committee (CCC).

The NSTA said the need to bolster energy security has been a key factor in the decisions it has taken about which licences to offer. The licences it is offering, it said in a statement, are in areas which have the potential to go into production more quickly than others.

NSTA chief executive Stuart Payne said: “Ensuring that the UK has broad options for energy security is at the heart of our work and these licences were awarded in the expectation that the licensees will get down to work immediately.

“The NSTA will work with the licensees to make sure that where production can be achieved it happens as quickly as possible.”

Energy security puzzle

The current Conservative Government has repeatedly argued that producing more oil and gas domestically can aid energy security, despite the fact that both fuels are internationally traded commodities and the UK will need to sell on the global market.

With that in mind, the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit’s (ECIU) head of energy Jess Ralston stated that “the only real way to insulate the UK and homeowners from volatile gas prices is to help them use less”.

Using less gas can be achieved by a mix of improving energy efficiency and enabling the electrification of heat with clean electricity.

On energy efficiency, the UK Government has sent mixed signals lately. It has launched a new £1bn home insulation scheme with a target to support more than 300,000 homes by spring 2026 and continues to allocate funding for energy-efficient buildings in the public sector. Yet it has also scrapped the introduction of new energy efficiency requirements for rented properties and disbanded its energy efficiency taskforce just six months after launch.

Related article: From nuclear to heat pumps: What’s included in the UK’s new Energy Act?

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