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U.K. Sees Net Loss on Tax Revenues from North Sea Oil

The United Kingdom’s net revenues from taxes levied on oil and gas companies operating on or near the North Sea turned negative “for the first time since records began in 1968,” according to a report by London-based Argus Media.

The government collected £538 million (about US$790.5 million) during the 2015-16 fiscal year, but a change in tax rules and enforcement, coupled with chronically low oil prices, meant more money went out through investments and subsidies, than went in.

A statement by tax officials said it had expected to take a loss of £10 million, but "low oil prices… continuing high levels of investment and increasing amounts of decommissioning expenditures” led the deficit to increase.

Related: NATO Energy Security Threatened By Karabakh Conflict

Petroleum revenue taxes had been virtually eliminated by the U.K. starting from January 1st of this year, as a result of a measure decreasing the tax from 50 pence per unit to 0 pence. The move, coupled with other provisions, amounted to around one billion pounds of tax relief for oil and natural gas companies due to the oil price crash and ongoing recovery.

Earlier this year, North Sea operators turned unprofitable, according to an announcement by the Office of National Statistics.

The BBC estimates that up to 24 billion barrels of oil remain in the North Sea.

Related: Despite Oil Price Uncertainty Kuwait Spends Big On Infrastructure

The news also follows a collapse in the profitability of UK North Sea operators announced by the UK statistics office ONS earlier this year. A January analysis of the region’s operations showed that rigs and other drilling processes turn unprofitable when the Brent oil barrel price drops to under $50.

Nasdaq says Brent oil traded at $49.34 a barrel on Friday.

A report by Citigroup earlier this week said barrel prices should rise above $50 dollars a gallon by the third quarter of this year.

The Qatari head of OPEC said prices must reach $65 to spur new investments in the sector.

By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com

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