April Fools’ Day is nearly here but jokes and pranks will be far from people’s minds.

Those are the opening words in a press releasei dated 21st March 2022, and are written by Dr Andy Samuel, Chief Executive of the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA).

What on earth is the North Sea Transition Authority? Well, it’s what used to be known as the Oil & Gas Authority. As its website saysii:

The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) was established to regulate the UK oil and gas industry, in conjunction with other regulatory authorities, and has a range of powers to deliver this remit.

Despite being primarily charged with regulating the oil and gas industry, it seems it’s just too embarrassing to retain any reference to oil and gas in its title. As Steve Baker is quoted in the Sunday Telegraphiii as saying:

It sends worrying signals that the UK’s oil and gas regulator daren’t now use the words ‘oil’ or ‘gas’ in its title.

The NSTA’s websiteiv tells us:

The Petroleum Act 1998 vests all rights to the UK’s petroleum resources in the Crown and provides the NSTA with the power to grant licences that confer exclusive rights to ‘search and bore for and get’ petroleum. Each of these licences confers such rights over a limited area and for a limited period.

The Act also puts into statute the principal objective of maximising the economic recovery of the UK’s offshore oil and gas resources (by way of the Infrastructure Act 2015).

Or, as Dr Samuel put it in the press release:

Our organisation was founded as the Oil and Gas Authority in 2015, tasked with maximising the value of the oil and gas industry.

But hey, who cares about that? Or about the need for energy security? A war in Ukraine, putting pressure on oil and gas prices?

No, what matters is this:

Last year, we revised our strategy to fully incorporate net zero in our decision making. We are now becoming the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) to reflect our expanded role, which includes emissions monitoring and carbon storage licensing.

Perfect timing! Especially given this (from the press release again):

The energy Trilemma of security, affordability and sustainability is not a new phenomenon. However, the amount of attention the constituent parts receive is rarely balanced.

Well, you can certainly say that again. Until recently nobody in authority seemed to give two hoots about energy security or affordability – net zero was apparently all that mattered. And we could be forgiven for thinking that not much has changed. The press release ends with a depressing conclusion, from which (as with the name change) it is apparent that net zero still trumps the affordability and security of UK energy:

COP26 reinforced the urgency of the climate crisis and the importance of sustainability, the recent rise in global energy demand brought affordability to the forefront, and the war in Ukraine has put security of supply in the spotlight. Finding the right pathway to net zero, and showing sound leadership, means always keeping all three in mind. The Deal strikes the right balance. The NSTA will continue to work with government, industry and other regulators to ensure it is upheld and play our full part in the transition.

April Fool’s Day is indeed almost here. The name change and press release might usefully have been delayed until then. Unfortunately the joke is on us.

Endnotes

i https://www.nstauthority.co.uk/news-publications/news/2022/andy-samuel-on-the-oga-becoming-the-north-sea-transition-authority/

ii https://www.nstauthority.co.uk/regulatory-framework/overview/

iii https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2022/03/26/rebranded-oil-gas-regulator-scared-associated-fossil-fuels-says/

iv https://www.nstauthority.co.uk/regulatory-framework/legislative-context/

7 Comments

  1. Cynical people, pushing irrational hype, silencing qualified critics, dominating the public square and corrupting institutions to do their bidding. The “public relations” side of the green blob in action. And, it turns out, funded and influenced by Putin…

    Like

  2. Some say the ouroboros is a symbol of the eternal cycle of life. I think of it as a snake biting itself in half and subsequently feeling a bit stupid. Thus with the Oil and Gas Authority. I wanted to know its history: the excised quote makes clear that it was created in 2015. What did they call it before then? Wiki:

    In June 2013, the UK government asked Sir Ian Wood of Wood Group to conduct a review into maximising the recovery of oil and gas from the UK Continental Shelf. One of the recommendations of the Wood Review was the creation of an independent economic regulator for the sector.

    Less than ten years ago, an expert was set the task of maximising the recovery of oil and gas. In 2015 the OGA was born. Within 7 years its remit had changed to become the destruction of the oil and gas industry.

    From the press release cited by Mark:

    We are holding North Sea operators to account on emissions. Our teams are using proactive stewardship, benchmarking and guidance to make sure industry not only meets but surpasses its pledge to halve emissions by 2030, as agreed in the North Sea Transition Deal.

    No doubt if there is a similar requirement on wind farm installers and operators, they use a little bit o’ prestidigitation to show that the wind turbines pay that debt with a tiny bit of their production.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. They are doing something, anyway:

    “Cambo oil field off Shetland granted two-year licence extension”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-business-60917159

    “The high-profile planned Cambo oil field off Shetland has been granted a licence extension.

    In December, Shell said the economic case – along with possible regulatory delays – meant it was withdrawing from the project, 75 west miles of Shetland.

    However the energy giant is understood to be reconsidering that decision.

    Shell and Siccar Point Energy have now been granted a two-year extension from the North Sea Transition Authority.

    It gives them exclusive rights to explore that part of the sea bed.

    The licence was due to end on Thursday, and the extension was not unexpected, but Friends of the Earth Scotland criticised the news.”

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  4. “Cuadrilla given extra year to evaluate fracking wells”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-60944314

    “The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) said the firm now had until the end of June 2023 to evaluate options for the Preston New Road and Elswick sites.”

    I wasn’t aware that Lancashire is in the North Sea. Perhaps the North Sea Transition Authority should have stuck with calling itself the Oil & Gas Authority…

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  5. “Regulator warns North Sea production emissions could rise”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-business-62973842

    Production emissions from oil and gas facilities in the North Sea fell last year but are expected to rise again, according to regulators.

    Figures from the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) show total emissions were 14.6% lower than 2020 levels.

    But it warned that without further investment the industry would miss its target to halve emissions by 2030.

    The industry insisted it had made “good progress” and was another step closer to reaching its net zero goals.

    Greenhouse gases from extracting oil and gas account for about 4% of the UK’s total, which is about the same as a third of all Scotland’s emissions.

    But because energy is reserved, production from Scotland’s waters is not counted in its annual audit.

    The NSTA report attributed the latest fall in emissions to a combination of industry efforts, Covid disruption and an overall drop in production for delayed maintenance.

    Almost three-quarters of those emissions come from generating power to run the installations, with gas flaring accounting for a further 22%.

    The report said it would be a “challenge” to sustain the emissions reductions in future years as operations return to a more regular pattern.

    Oh, is that how Scotland is going to achieve net zero by 2045, instead of 2050 by the rest of the UK (sic)? North Sea Oil production doesn’t count, because it’s in the UK figures and doesn’t count in Scotland.

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  6. “North Sea oil and gas exploration ‘good for the environment'”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-63184412

    Plans to allow oil and gas exploration in the North Sea will be “good for the environment”, the UK’s climate minister has said.

    Graham Stuart, MP for Beverley and Holderness, said the move was “entirely compatible” with climate targets.

    More than 100 licences could be issued for the coast off Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Norfolk.

    The Green Party said that global warming targets would only be met “if we leave fossil fuels in the ground”.

    Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mr Stuart said: “Actually it’s good for the environment, because when we burn our own gas it’s got lower emissions around its production than foreign gas… as well as supporting British jobs.

    “So you really can be assured that it’s actually – I know it sounds contradictory – but it’s actually good for the environment that we are going to produce more of our gas and oil at home.”

    In a bid to encourage production of new oil and gas supplies as quickly as possible, the North Sea Transition Authority has identified four “priority cluster areas” in the southern North Sea which are known to contain hydrocarbons and are close to existing infrastructure, giving them the potential to be developed quickly…

    Perhaps the North Sea Transition Authority should revert to its previous name?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “Dozens of bids to drill new oil and gas fields”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-64297563

    More than 100 applications have been submitted to drill for new oil and gas in the North Sea.

    The UK government opened a fresh round of licensing after a three-year hiatus while it hosted the UN climate change conference in Glasgow.

    But UK ministers said more licences would be made available because of the energy security crisis.

    A total of 115 bids have been received and the successful applicants will be announced later this year…

    …The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), which regulates the sector, said a total of 115 bids have been received from 76 companies, covering 258 “blocks” of the sea.

    The NSTA said the bids will now be studied and those that go ahead could begin production in as little as 18 months.

    Several different consents are needed after licences are granted but before production can begin – including ensuring it is in line with climate commitments….

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