Oil and gas firms granted access to drill under UK offshore wind farms

By Staff
5 Min Read

The government is set to make a significant announcement this Friday, granting permission for fossil fuel companies to explore for oil and gas beneath offshore wind-power sites.

The move, disclosed by the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), responsible for regulating North Sea oil and gas production, will issue licences to approximately 30 companies for hydrocarbon exploration within areas designated for future offshore wind farms.

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.
Following discussions with our partners in The Crown Estate and Crown Estate
Scotland, 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.”

This decision has ignited debate among environmental campaigners, who argue it signals a departure from the climate agenda by government officials.

A Department for Energy Security and Net Zero spokesperson told Energy Live News: “To strengthen our energy security and grow the economy, we want to maximise the huge energy potential of the North Sea.

“Co-location of offshore wind and oil and gas projects already co-exist successfully and the NSTA have introduced a new clause which requires an agreed co-location between oil and gas licensees and offshore wind developers before activity can take place.

“We will continue to need oil and gas over the coming decades as we increase our share of renewables; that’s why we welcome the work by the NSTA and the Crown Estates to facilitate the co-location of wind and oil and gas projects as the offshore space gets busier.”

RenewableUK’s Chief Executive Dan McGrail said: “Whilst we respect that the North Sea is a shared space, with the natural environment and other industries to consider, the government should be crystal clear that their priority is renewables over oil and gas.

“Offshore wind is going to be the backbone of our future system, not fossil fuels. Prioritising offshore wind over oil and gas isn’t just the right choice for the planet, but given renewables are the lowest cost means of generating power, we should be doing this for billpayers.”

A NSTA spokesperson told Energy Live News: “The granting of an exploration licence does not eliminate the use of that area for offshore wind, and we wholly support the use of offshore wind as a means of power generation.

“The NSTA has worked closely to manage any potential overlaps and for the first time have agreed a new co-location clause which means that for any activity to take place oil and gas operators will have to come to an agreement with wind lease holder on how to proceed before further permission for activity is granted.

“This will be the main mechanism for these licences to resolving spatial overlaps and to support co-existence of these important industries.

“It is possible for different activities to take place in the same areas through early engagement and coordination, careful sequencing of activities, and deployment of specific technology.”

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