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UK Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho warned on Wednesday that Britain will see North Sea oil and gas production halve by 2030, placing the UK at the mercy of external forces should the Labour Party government come to power and refuse to allow new offshore drilling.
Coutinho said the UK would be forced to import up to 80% of its oil and gas by 2030, rendering it “subservient to foreign regimes” and “decimating the same people and communities that we need to come with us on this green transition journey”, as reported by the Telegraph.
Speaking at the annual Energy UK conference, Coutinho cited new data from the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) indicating that the number of offshore UK oil and gas wells dropped by 83 in 2022, with a total of 1,629 current wells, compared to 2,052 in 2019.
Extracting from NSTA data, the Energy Secretary claimed that UK production fell to a record low of 38 million tonnes in 2022, and would fall to 22 million tonnes in 2030 without any new drilling.
That pending energy supply gap would require a significant increase in expensive exports, Coutinho said.
The UK’s Labour government has vowed to stop any new offshore drilling in an effort to meet its 2050 climate goals if it wins in the next elections.
In late September, citing energy security needs, Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak walked back net zero emissions targets and green-lighted Equinor’s North Sea Rosebank field, which would represent one of the UK’s biggest new oil and gas projects in recent times.
Walking back net zero emissions targets is a move by Sunak to ensure that the Conservative Party (Tories) can capture more votes after a narrow win against the Labour Party in July by-elections.
This is a tricky political arena to navigate, and Coutinho, who was appointed to the post less than a month ago, is a Sunak loyalist and a conservative who is a member of the Conservative Environment Network.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com