Oil and Gas Authority renames as North Sea Transition Authority

As the UK Government finalises its strategy for increasing domestic energy production, the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) has announced a rebrand to the North Sea Transition Authority.

Oil and Gas Authority renames as North Sea Transition Authority

Pictured: A semi-submersible oil rig off the coast of Aberdeenshire

The organisation, which is a Government Company and an executive agency for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), said the name change will “reflect its evolving role in the energy transition”.

Changes to be taken into account include the Authority’s new role as the UK’s permitting authority for carbon storage in the North Sea, as carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies scale. The body also has a role in integrating planning for offshore wind with planning for oil and gas.

Additionally, it is responsible for carrying out climate “stress tests” for new projects. There is no word yet on whether the testing framework will be altered, following criticism from the Climate Change Committee.

Nonetheless, overseeing oil and gas will remain the Authority’s primary remit, and it will continue to argue that fossil fuels need to be “an essential part of the energy mix for some time to come”.  Its primary workstreams include stewarding ongoing production, licencing and stewarding new developments and scoping out locations for future oil and gas projects.

“Our values remain the same while the organisation is adapting to meet the UK’s changing needs,” said the Authority’s chief executive Dr Andy Samuel.

Dr Samuel added “The UK is moving to a net-zero, low-carbon future and the Russian government’s invasion of Ukraine reinforces the need for pace. Meanwhile, oil and gas remain vital for energy security as we transition. The North Sea Transition Authority is ideally placed to support both.”

Energy strategy

The change of name comes as the UK is finalising a new strategy for boosting energy independence, in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine and to the fact that wholesale oil and gas prices have been skyrocketing since the conflict began. It is expected to be published this week.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is understood to be planning increased North Sea oil and gas production as part of the strategy, despite being warned against this step by an array of environmental groups, trade bodies, citizens groups and its own climate change advisors.

Johnson has stated that the Government is “not abandoning its commitment to reducing CO2”, despite pressure to do so from some corners, but that it will take a different pathway to net-zero, involving more fossil fuels in the short-term.

Johnson has repeatedly rubbished calls for a windfall tax on big oil and gas companies to help ease the price crisis, stating that these companies need to continue to attract investment to scale clean technologies. This is despite research repeatedly showing that most fossil fuel majors only allocate a small proportion of their investments in low-carbon energy. Shell, for example, is reportedly set to spend just 12% of its investments on renewables and energy solutions this year.

The strategy won’t solely be focused on fossil fuels – we can expect relaxed planning rules for wind farms, more support for nuclear and further measures on energy efficiency, too. Click here to read edie’s explainer on the strategy.

Also taking place this week is the first anniversary of the £16bn North Sea Transition Deal. BEIS is claiming that the Deal has helped to reduce production-related emissions by 11%, on 2018 levels, and continues to herald it as “a clear path for the decarbonisation of the oil and gas sector”. Environmental groups have continued to argue – as they did when the Deal was first announced – that it is not in alignment with key climate targets.

Sarah George

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