To boost the UK’s energy security, the UK Government today lifted the moratorium on shale gas production in England and confirmed its support for a new round of oil and gas licensing, to be launched by the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) beginning of October.
In light of Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and the weaponization of energy, the government is taking concrete steps to increase local energy sources, reduce the UK’s dependence on foreign imports and explore all possible options to enhance national energy security. To do this, all means should be sought to increase oil and gas production in the UK, including through new oil and gas licenses and shale gas extraction.
Business and Energy Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg said:
In light of Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and the weaponization of energy, strengthening our energy security is a top priority and – as the Prime Minister has said – we will ensure that the UK to be a net exporter of energy by 2040.
To get there, we’ll need to explore all avenues open to us through solar, wind, oil and gas generation – so it’s only fair that we’ve lifted the pause to realize all potential sources of domestic gas.
The new licensing round is expected to result in more than 100 new licenses, as previously announced by the Prime Minister, as part of the government’s plans to speed up domestic energy supply. As part of the new licensing cycle, which follows the results of the climate compatibility checkpoint, the NSTA is expected to make a number of new ‘blocks’ of the UK continental shelf available, for applicants to bid for licenses.
These licenses will allow developers to seek commercially viable sources of oil and gas within the areas of their licenses. Developers will still need to seek regulatory approval for all activities in their license area, such as drilling or building infrastructure.
Increasing energy supply with a new round of licensing and the lifting of the moratorium on shale gas production will help build the UK’s energy resilience and achieve the ambition of making the UK an exporter net of energy by 2040.
Today the government is officially lifting the pause on shale gas extraction and will consider future requests for consent to hydraulic fracturing keeping in mind national and global gas needs and where there is local support . Developers will need to have the necessary licenses, permissions, and consents before they can begin operations.
The decision comes alongside the publication of the British Geological Survey’s scientific review of shale gas extraction, which was commissioned earlier this year. The review recognized that we have a limited current understanding of UK geology and shale land resources, and of the challenges of modeling geological activity in the relatively complex geology sometimes found in the sites of British shale.
To date, only three test wells have been hydraulically fractured in the UK. It is clear that we need more sites drilled in order to gather better data and improve the evidence base and we are aware that some developers want to participate in this process.
Lifting the pause on shale gas extraction will allow drilling to collect this additional data, better understand the UK’s shale gas resources and how we can safely extract the gas shale in the UK where there is local support.
We are developing renewable, nuclear and low-carbon sources of energy to enhance Britain’s long-term energy security and reduce our exposure to high fossil fuel prices set by global markets beyond our control. However, the demand for oil and gas will continue to exist for the next few years during this transition, with oil and gas being necessary to maintain the security of the UK’s energy supply. Making the most of our own domestic resources under the North Sea will make us less dependent on foreign imports.
Notes to editors:
- The written ministerial statement officially lifting the moratorium is available shortly (link to be added when available).
- The government’s support for the licensing cycle follows the introduction of the new climate compatibility checkpoint which opened at the end of 2021, the checkpoint is a new measure for ministers to review the allocation of new licenses to the light of the UK’s climate change targets.
- Read the government’s response to the climate compatibility checkpoint consultation.
- The Government’s response to the consultation on the Strategic Environmental Assessment of Offshore Energy in the UK 4 is also published today (OESEA4) Environmental report. The Government took into account the responses received during the consultation period in making the decision to adopt its draft plan/programme for licensing and leasing areas for future offshore energy developments. This will pave the way for future licenses or leases for offshore oil and gas, offshore gas and carbon storage, offshore renewables and offshore hydrogen, in the relevant waters of the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS).
- Strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is an assessment process by which environmental protection and sustainable development are considered and taken into account in decisions relating to government plans and programs (such as those relating to offshore energy infrastructure). This is a legal requirement designed to ensure that environmental factors are considered at the broader stage of plan development. More information on the Strategic Environmental Assessment of Offshore Energy (SEA) steps and process are available here.