A trio of oil and gas operators have been hit with a massive six-figure fine, as the UK’s North Sea watchdog aims to enforce net zero and reach Government-backed security of supply requirements.
The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) has fined EnQuest, Equinor and Spirit Agency a total of £265,000 as part of its crackdown.
EnQuest has been hit with the largest fine ever issued by the NSTA relating to emissions violations.
It is being forced to cough up £150,000 for flaring an excess 262 tonnes of gas on the Magnus Field between 30 November and 1 December 2021, despite knowing it did not have the necessary consent in place.
Equinor has also been fined £65,000 for flaring at least 348 tonnes of CO2 above the amount permitted on the Barnacle Field between June and November 2020.
Meanwhile, Spirit has been fined £50,000 for exceeding the maximum allowed production volumes from two fields over three years.
The NSTA’s flaring and venting guidance aims to eliminate unnecessary or wasteful flaring and venting of gas.
This is in line with the central aims of the NSTA’s Strategy, which includes a requirement for industry to assist the Business Secretary in meeting the net zero target.
Operators such as EnQuest and Equinor have are expected to follow a clear process to apply for consent to flare or vent gas, and progress has been encouraging with overall emissions from North Sea oil and gas production activities down 21.5 per cent between 2018-21.
Jane de Lozey, NSTA Director of Regulation, said: “The NSTA is committed to supporting the UK’s energy security and lowering greenhouse gas emissions, including through the use of our robust consenting procedures, which drive down flaring and venting.
“We are encouraged by recent improvements on emissions and will take action to ensure this vital work is not undermined by companies who fail to meet their obligations.”
NSTA has been criticised for overseeing the latest licensing round for oil and gas projects, with Paris-based climate group the International Energy Agency calling for no further fossil fuel developments.
It is currently inviting applications for licences to explore and potentially develop 898 blocks and part-blocks in the North Sea, which may lead to over 100 licences being awarded.