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The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), the oil and gas industry regulator, awarded on Monday 27 new licenses in the first batch of the latest licensing rounds, awarding areas with the potential to go into production more quickly than others.
The UK launched the 33rd Oil and Gas Licensing Round in October last year, with 931 blocks and part-blocks made available for application. NSTA has received 115 applications from 76 companies for 258 blocks or part blocks.
Subject to additional environmental checks, more blocks will be offered, the regulator said.
“It’s common sense to reduce our reliance on foreign imports and use our own supply – it’s better for our economy, the environment and our energy security,” Energy Security Secretary Claire Coutinho said, commenting on the awards, which have stirred controversy in the UK and have been challenged by environmentalists in court.
Earlier this month, London’s High Court dismissed a legal challenge by environmental groups that attacked the UK’s new licenses for oil and gas production in court, claiming the government hasn’t properly reviewed the emissions from burning the fossil fuels.
The two climate campaign groups, Greenpeace and Uplift, have challenged the UK government’s decision to award new oil and gas licenses in the North Sea, claiming the cabinet failed to properly check “the damage it will do to the climate.”
Justice David Holgate of the High Court dismissed the environmentalists’ claims for judicial review, writing in the ruling that the government’s decision not to take the emissions from burning of the end products into account was lawful and not irrational.
“There was no internal inconsistency between the approach taken by the Secretary of State to whether end-use emissions should be assessed as a likely significant effect of the Plan and his comparison of reasonable alternatives,” Justice Holgate wrote.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reiterated in July that hundreds of new oil and gas licenses would be granted, “as the UK Government continues to back the North Sea oil and gas industry as part of a drive to make Britain more energy independent.”
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.