Oil & Gas

Regulator launches probe into North Sea company amid flaring crackdown

An investigation has been launched into an unnamed oil and gas company for flaring and venting in the North Sea without consent.

Conducted by the North Sea Transition Authority, the probe could result in serious repercussions for the unspecified firm, including a fine or the relevant licence being taken away.

Monitoring flaring and venting and reducing emissions are key parts of the industry regulator’s drive to reduce operational emissions and help the UK Government meet its net zero target.

Flaring and venting also wastes gas that could otherwise be used to boost the UK’s energy security.

Compliance with consents is both an indicator of good management of fields by licensees and a vital pillar of a company’s social licence to operate, the NSTA said.

Under the regulator’s Strategy, licensees have an obligation to assist Westminster in hitting net zero, while optimising oil and gas production to bolster energy supplies.

Unauthorised flaring and venting go against this obligation.

Between 2018 and 2020, flaring and venting made up 26% of emissions from oil and gas production activities in the UK North Sea.

Reducing both practises will help to meet emissions reduction targets agreed in the landmark North Sea Transition Deal, as well as lowering gas waste.

Following the revision of its strategy in 2021, the NSTA introduced a net zero stewardship expectation.

It requires operators to show their commitment to reducing greenhouse gases throughout the project lifecycle.

A tougher approach to flaring and venting was subsequently set out in updated guidance, which provided details of the NSTA’s intent to use its consenting regime to drive reductions and, where possible, eliminate both processes.

Jane de Lozey, NSTA interim director of regulation, said: “With our support, North Sea operators cut flaring by 20per cent and venting by 22per cent last year. The NSTA is committed to holding industry to account on emissions to ensure progress continues and is prepared to take action where we suspect a company’s actions risk compromising efforts to meet and surpass agreed targets.”

Earlier this month the NSTA kicked off a separate investigation into a UK oil and gas firm amid a possible breach of licence conditions.

It will look into whether the unnamed firm conducted a well test – intended to gauge whether or not the reservoir can produce oil or gas – without consent and failed to provide timely notification of the completion of the test.

If the company is found to have failed to meet these obligations, it could face a fine of up to £1 million.

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