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Hike UK oil and gas production to reduce reliance on imports, energy body urges

·2-min read
The UK needs to more proactively exploit North Sea oil and gas reserves if it is to cut its reliance on international imports, an energy body has said. (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Archive)
The UK needs to more proactively exploit North Sea oil and gas reserves if it is to cut its reliance on international imports, an energy body has said. (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Archive)

A major UK offshore energy body has urged the new prime minister Liz Truss to exploit the nation’s oil and gas reserves to help reduce the country’s reliance on imports.

Offshore Energy UK (OEUK), a body that represents offshore oil and gas firms, said that while it could identify £26 billion of potential fossil fuel projects by 2030, too little of this had actually been approved.

It said even if all those projects were given the green light, the predicted amount of oil and gas recovered would still only cover about half of the UK’s estimated energy usage between now and 2030, based on the UN Climate Change Committee’s predictions.

“However, less than a third of the known potential investment (£8.5 billion) is considered sanctioned,” the OEUK report said.

“In a scenario of no further investment approvals, it is likely that production would go on to decline at an average rate of around 15% per year for the remainder of the decade.

“A full investment case would still be expected to result in a longer-term production decline of around 5% per year, which is around the same rate that the CCC expects demand to drop by.”

In her first Prime Ministers Questions, Liz Truss appeared sympathetic with the message being sent by OEUK.

Responding to a question about the energy crisis from SNP leader Ian Blackford, she said: “I want to see us using more of our UK energy supply, including more oil and gas from the North Sea, and nuclear power in Scotland.”

She added that her mooted package aimed at helping households cope with rocketing energy fuel bills “won’t be paid for by a windfall tax, as I don’t believe we can tax our way to growth”.

While gas production in the UK rose 26% in the first half of 2022 compared to the same period last year, helped by new projects off the east coast, the nation still relies heavily on international imports.

OEUK said without new investment, the UK would have to import around 80% of its gas by 2030, and around 70% of its oil, up from around 60% and 20% now, respectively.

Environmental groups are likely to argue that drilling for more oil and gas is at odds with the UK’s net-zero targets, while stating that renewable energy schemes could potentially provide energy sooner than some new oil and gas projects, which can take years to develop.