New oil and gas licences claimed to be compatible with net zero

New oil and gas licences and projects to develop carbon capture facilities are claimed to be in line with efforts toward net zero and will help protect over 200,000 jobs, according to the UK government.


This is the view of prime minister Rishi Sunak who is in Scotland today (July 31, 2023) making the case to ‘power up Britain from Britain’ to assure energy independence. All other major UK political parties oppose the expansion of North Sea licences, while the IPCC, UN and IEA have all said new oil and gas projects are incompatible with the climate goals set out in the Paris Agreement. 

Despite this, the government and the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) are today announcing a joint commitment to undertake future licensing rounds, which are said to be subject to climate compatibility checks. The NSTA, which regulates the oil, gas and carbon storage industries, is running the 33rd offshore oil and gas licensing round and expects the first new licences to be awarded in the autumn, with the round likely to award over 100 licences.

According to analysis by the NSTA, the carbon footprint of domestic gas production is around one-quarter of the carbon footprint of imported liquified natural gas. 

“Now more than ever, it’s vital that we bolster our energy security and capitalise on that independence to deliver more affordable, clean energy to British homes and businesses,” Sunak said in a statement. “Even when we’ve reached net zero in 2050, a quarter of our energy needs will come from oil and gas.

Sunak continued: “We’re choosing to power up Britain from Britain and invest in crucial industries such as carbon capture and storage, rather than depend on more carbon intensive gas imports from overseas – which will support thousands of skilled jobs, unlock further opportunities for green technologies and grow the economy.”

The government also confirmed today that project Acorn in North East Scotland and Viking in the Humber have been chosen as the third and fourth carbon capture usage and storage (CCUS) clusters in the UK that will be deployed by 2030. They join the HyNet cluster in North West England and North Wales, and the East Coast Cluster in the Teesside and Humber, which are expected to be deployed by the mid-2020s.

Energy security secretary Grant Shapps said: “Our next steps to develop carbon capture and storage, in Scotland and the Humber, will…help to build a thriving new industry for our North Sea that could support as many as 50,000 jobs, as we deliver on our priority of growing the economy.”

In a separate development, research led by Aberdeen University has found areas of a North Sea gas ‘super basin’ with the greatest potential for storing industrial carbon emissions.

Their results confirm the potential of the Anglo-Polish Super Basin in the Southern North Sea as a future CCUS hub where industrial emissions can be stored in former gas fields and other geological formations.

Commenting on today’s announcement, Prof Stuart Haszeldine, Professor of Carbon Capture and Storage at the Edinburgh University, said: “A deal with the devil is not wanted here. It’s essential to ensure that this carbon storage with Acorn or Viking projects provide a genuine decrease of emissions. Storage of two or five million tonnes CO2 per year should not become a policy excuse to release additional 10’s or 100’s million tonnes CO2 from development of new oil and gas extraction through many tens of new licences.  

“If Rosebank field goes ahead that is 200 Million tonnes of extra CO2, if Jackdaw field is developed that is 70 million tonnes extra CO2.”

Prof Haszeldine continued: “The government needs to be committed to implementing a ‘Carbon Take Back Obligation’ where there is an arithmetic balance that one ton of carbon extracted is balanced by one ton of carbon stored by CCS – back underground where the carbon came from.”