UK allows wind farms and oil producers to overlap in North Sea

Article by Adam Duckett

THE UK has introduced new rules allowing oil and gas firms and wind farm operators to share sites in the North Sea.

The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) announced the new clause today as it awarded 31 licences for firms to explore and drill for oil and gas off the UK coast. However, opponents of the new rules argue that more must be done to accelerate the development of clean energy over fossil fuels.

Dan McGrail, CEO of the trade group RenewableUK, said: “Whilst we welcome the efforts of the North Sea Transition Authority, The Crown Estate and Crown Estate Scotland to work together on reforming the rules governing oil and gas co-location with offshore wind farms, we need much greater prioritisation of renewables over oil and gas in spatial planning. Offshore wind is going to be the backbone of our future system, not fossil fuels.”

The NSTA said: “The North Sea is an important resource for energy security and net zero delivery, so

it’s vital that sectors collaborate to ensure those systems can co-exist…we have introduced a new clause for overlapping oil and gas licences and wind leases for the first time. This will be the main commercial mechanism for these licences to resolve spatial overlaps and to support co-existence of these important industries.”

The government has faced fierce criticism for continuing to grant new production licences given its legally binding carbon target to be net zero by 2050. Among them is Chris Skidmore, a former Conservative MP who led a net zero review for the government. He resigned as an MP in January saying while there is a role for existing oil and gas in the transition to net zero, experts had warned no additional production could be allowed if we are to limit global warming to 1.5oC.

“As fossil fuels become more obsolete, expanding new oil and gas licences or opening new oil fields will only create stranded assets of the future, harming local and regional communities that should instead be supported to transition their skills and expertise to renewable and clean energy,” he wrote.

The offshore industry trade body OEUK has welcomed the award of the licences, saying that new oil and gas production will protect jobs and increase energy security. However, figures suggest otherwise, with government data showing the nation currently exports 80% of the oil it produces in the North Sea.

Article by Adam Duckett

Editor, The Chemical Engineer

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