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Environmentalists Attempt To Halt UK Oil And Gas Licensing Round

Greenpeace has asked the High Court to issue a judicial review on whether the UK’s massive oil and gas licensing round – expected to award more than 100 new licenses – failed to adequately assess the climate impact of more drilling in the North Sea.  

In September, the previous government of Liz Truss paved the way for more than 100 new oil and gas licenses in the UK North Sea as the UK focused on its energy security.

In early October, the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) – the UK’s oil and gas regulator – launched the 33rd offshore licensing round, inviting applications for licenses to explore and potentially develop 898 blocks and part-blocks in the North Sea, which may lead to over 100 licenses being awarded. According to the authority and the UK government, Britain’s energy security will be “significantly boosted” with the launch of the 33rd licensing round.

Authorities will be looking at operators starting production after license awards as quickly as possible, and in order to encourage that, the NSTA has identified four priority cluster areas in the Southern North Sea. Those areas have known oil and gas reserves, are close to infrastructure, and have the potential to be developed quickly. The authority will seek to license blocks in these areas ahead of others.  

The application period will run until January 12, 2023, and the first licenses are expected to be awarded in the second quarter of 2023, the NSTA said.

Commenting on the legal challenge to the licensing round, Philip Evans, oil and gas campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said, as carried by the Financial Times, “These licences are a complete disaster.”

In allowing the massive licensing round to proceed, the UK government has “failed in its legal duty to properly assess their climate impact,” Evans said.

Friends of the Earth and Uplift, two other climate campaign groups, have called on the UK’s Business Secretary Grant Shapps to reverse the decision for the licensing process of his predecessor Jacob Rees-Mogg, saying that the approval of the licensing round was “unlawful”. 

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By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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