Under the The North Sea Transition Authority’s (NSTA) 33rd oil and gas licensing round which opens today, oil and gas companies are rubbing their hands at the prospect of potentially developing 898 blocks and part-blocks in the North Sea which may lead to over 100 licences being awarded.
But it’s a difficult policy to reconcile as the clarion call for decarbonisation and renewables intensifies.
The NSTA insists new developments tend to be “significantly lower emitting” and production emissions have been cut by more than a fifth between 2018 and 2021.
Projections indicate the sector is on track to meet reduction targets of 10% by 2025 and 25% by 2027 – agreed in the North Sea Transition Deal in 2021. Crucially, the industry can play a key role in areas like carbon storage and hydrogen development.
Acreage will be offered in the West of Shetland, Northern North Sea, Central North Sea, Southern North Sea and East Irish Sea. It is expected that the first licences will be awarded from the second quarter of 2023.
Asked on the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme if she supported the licensing round, Sturgeon said: “I don’t support a haphazard, just give the ‘go ahead’, without stringent climate compatibility checks. The route to energy security is renewable energy. We have vast renewable potential and what we’ve got to do is have a careful planned transition.”
She said through its Seabed auction, it has the potential to develop 20GW in offshore wind, double its current installed capacity.
“We’ve got vast potential in green hydrogen to meet our energy needs and an export industry for the future – we need to focus on that as we play our part, which every country has to do, in the move away from fossil fuels.”
Scotland’s renewable energy industry and its supply chain supported more than 27,000 full time equivalent jobs and generated £5.6bn of output in 2020, according to new figures.
A £20m Just Transition Fund, which opened in May, is funding projects to support the oil and gas sector moving into renewables.