Prime Minister grants hundreds of new North Sea oil and gas licences 'to boost British energy independence'

Mon 31 July 2023 View all news

The Prime Minister has confirmed that hundreds of new oil and gas licences will be granted to operators in the North Sea "as part of a drive to make Britain more energy independent". The decision has been widely criticised, including by a former Conservative energy minister.

The Government said: "This will increase the UK’s energy security and reduce dependence on higher-emission imports, whilst protecting more than 200,000 jobs in a vital industry as we grow the UK economy."

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: "Now more than ever, it’s vital that we bolster our energy security and capitalise on that independence to deliver more affordable, clean energy to British homes and businesses.

"We’re choosing to power up Britain from Britain and invest in crucial industries such as carbon capture and storage, rather than depend on more carbon intensive gas imports from overseas." 

The Government has confirmed that projects Acorn in North East Scotland and Viking in the Humber have been chosen as the third and fourth carbon capture usage and storage clusters in the UK.

The Government said that it has already committed to deploy CCUS in two industrial clusters by the mid-2020s – the HyNet cluster in North West England and North Wales, and the East Coast Cluster in the Teesside and Humber – and another further two clusters by 2030 – now confirmed as Acorn and Viking.

The Government says it has committed to provide up to £20 billion in funding for early deployment of CCUS.

Chris Skidmore MP, a former energy minister who recently led an 'Independent Review of Net Zero' for the Government, called the new licences “the wrong decision at precisely the wrong time, when the rest of the world is experiencing record heat waves”.

He said (reported by The Guardian): “It is on the wrong side of a future economy that will be founded on renewable and clean industries, and not fossil fuels.

“It is on the wrong side of modern voters who will vote with their feet at the next general election for parties that protect, and not threaten, our environment. And it is on the wrong side of history, that will not look favourably on the decision taken today.”

The Guardian also quotes development organisation Oxfam’s climate policy adviser, Lyndsay Walsh, who said: “Extracting more fossil fuels from the North Sea will send a wrecking ball through the UK’s climate commitments at a time when we should be investing in a just transition to a low carbon economy and our own abundant renewables.”

Mike Childs of Friends of the Earth, said: “Climate change is already battering the planet with unprecedented wildfires and heatwaves across the globe. Granting hundreds of new oil and gas licences will simply pour more fuel on the flames, while doing nothing for energy security as these fossil fuels will be sold on international markets and not reserved for UK use.”


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