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31 July 2023

UK Approves Hundreds of New North Sea Oil and Gas Licenses to Boost Energy Independence and Economy

The UK Prime Minister has announced the approval of hundreds of new oil and gas licenses in the North Sea, underscoring the nation's commitment to enhancing energy independence and stimulating economic growth. This decision, revealed on Monday 31 July, is part of the UK Government's strategy to support the North Sea oil and gas industry and reinforce Britain's energy self-sufficiency.

In collaboration with the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), the Government is making a joint commitment to initiate future licensing rounds, ensuring that these rounds adhere to climate compatibility criteria.

By embracing a more flexible application process, these new licenses may also be granted in proximity to currently licensed areas. This approach facilitates the utilization of existing infrastructure and past assessments, expediting the development of vital reserves.

With the independent Climate Change Committee projecting that around a quarter of the UK's energy demand will continue to be met by oil and gas even as the country reaches net zero by 2050, the Government is taking proactive steps to counteract the rapid decline in domestic oil and gas production. This strategy aims to secure the UK's energy supply, diminish reliance on geopolitically sensitive states, and safeguard over 200,000 jobs within this pivotal industry.

During a visit to a significant energy infrastructure site in Aberdeenshire, the Prime Minister will emphasize the region's pivotal role in bolstering the UK's energy independence. The Prime Minister will also engage with the next generation of skilled apprentices who will drive these energy initiatives forward.

The NSTA, responsible for regulating the oil, gas, and carbon storage sectors, is currently conducting the 33rd offshore oil and gas licensing round. The first of the new licenses is anticipated to be awarded in the coming autumn, with the entire round projected to grant over 100 licenses.

Future licenses will play a crucial role in enhancing energy security, unlocking opportunities in carbon capture usage and storage, and promoting hydrogen utilization. These efforts will establish fully integrated offshore energy hubs that optimize the use of established infrastructure.

Recent analysis from the NSTA underscores that the carbon footprint of domestic gas production is approximately one-quarter of the carbon footprint of imported liquefied natural gas (LNG). Given the UK's declining production of oil and gas, these new licenses are aimed at mitigating the decline in domestic supply to ensure essential energy security without exacerbating carbon emissions, aligning with the UK's net-zero goals by 2050.