The UK government’s rhetoric at COP26 has been called a “sham” after a regulator pushed for more oil and gas exploration in the North Sea.
Tim Eggar, chairman of the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA), told a conference Wednesday that shutting down oil and gas production would make net zero “impossible”.
The combined PROSPEX and PETEX conference, in Islington, London, was organized by the Petroleum Exploration Society of Great Britain (PESGB).
The Scottish Greens said the comments “went against scientific evidence” as well as warnings from the United Nations (UN) and the International Energy Agency (IEA).
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Meanwhile, environmental activists Friends of the Earth (FoE) in Scotland criticized the regulator for “acting like a cheerleader” for the oil and gas industry.
Eggar delivered a speech at the conference, which describes itself on its website as the “UK’s largest subsoil-focused global conference and exhibition“.
He began by thanking the exploration community for their “incredible resilience and determination” throughout the pandemic and “many drops in commodity prices.”
Eggar (above) continued: “More recently your whole existence has been called into question by a loud lobby, some of whom want to see an abrupt end to UK oil and gas production. “They seem to ignore the consequences. Such an act would mean that net zero would be unachievable and a transition just a dream. ”
The head of the OGA then lamented that the discovery of oil fields is now subject to further scrutiny due to the climate crisis.
Eggar told delegates: “Even new field developments here in the UK – once celebrated for their value and contribution to the country – face many more challenges, even as the seven new gas fields put into operation this year. year will strengthen UK security of supply by extending gas production.
The regulator is currently considering approving a license for the controversial Cambo oil field off the coast of Shetland, which is said to contain 800 million barrels of oil.
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Eggar added that for oil and gas, the UK produces more than it can replace with new oil deposits, and forecasts indicate the UK will be a net importer of gas from here. Around 2050.
He said: “Since we know we need it, and we know we have it, I say there is a strong case for continued domestic exploration and production. . ”
Eggar then turned to licensing, saying the details of the climate compatibility checkpoint announced in the North Sea Transition Agreement, which has yet to be released by the UK government, will provide ” more clarity “on his future.
He added that there was “no current ban on exploration and licensing” and said the regulator is ready to launch a “new licensing round” once it has. received government confirmation.
Eggar told delegates: “The industry has made it clear that it needs to continue licensing. We need you to be prepared when the opportunity arises.
“The industry needs to demonstrate its appetite for new investments alongside its commitment to the transition. In anticipation, I urge you not to waste this break, but to use it to prepare bids that are stronger than ever. ”
Scottish Greens for Energy and Climate spokesperson Mark Ruskell (above) said Eggar’s comments defied warnings from the UN, IEA and scientists.
He continued: “Further, it exposes the UK government’s rhetoric at the COP as a sham.
“There is already more oil in the North Sea than we can safely burn and keep global warming at a safe level, but the UK government wants to explore even more.
“He needs to urgently recognize that what is really vital is ensuring the survival of humanity, not maximizing the profits of the oil and gas industry.
“It will take time to manage a phase-out of oil and gas production ensuring that no workers are left behind, planning for this just transition must take place now.”
Ryan Morrison, Just Transition activist at FoE Scotland, said: “The OGA needs to start behaving like a regulator of the oil and gas industry rather than a cheerleader.
“Climate science is crystal clear that in order to reach the agreed target of 1.5 ° C we must stop all new fossil fuel projects.
“The coming decade must see concerted government intervention and investment to ensure a swift and fair phase-out of fossil fuels and a massive increase in renewables that protect livelihoods and create many decent green jobs here in Scotland.
“The North Sea oil and gas industry claims to be working towards net zero, but it continues to explore and try to open up new oil fields like Cambo, while ignoring the emissions resulting from the combustion of its oil and gas. ”
The UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has been contacted for comment.