New North Sea oil and gas fields could only produce enough gas to meet the UK’s needs for a few weeks a year, with little impact on energy security, the analysis found. the.
The fields currently being considered would provide a maximum of an extra three weeks of gas a year to the UK, from 2024 to 2050, even if no gas is exported.
In fact, it is more likely that most of the gas will be exported abroad to the highest bidder, as is currently the case with around 60% of UK gas production.
During the same period, new oil fields will supply at most five years of oil demand, if nothing is exported, according to an analysis of government data by the campaign group Uplift. The UK currently exports around 80% of the oil produced in the North Sea.
Ministers are considering a number of potential new licenses for the exploration or development of new oil and gas fields in the North Sea. A decision on the Rosebank field, one of the largest, is expected soon.
The government says the new fields are needed for energy security, at a time of rising gas prices, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
However, even the former ministers said that the new fields will not reduce energy prices in the UK, because they will come in years to come, and the fuel produced will be sold at the highest bidders worldwide, with little effect on UK prices.
Tessa Khan, executive director of Uplift, said that the analysis of the fields shows that the government’s energy security claims are unfounded. “It is pure fantasy to think that the North Sea can satisfy the UK’s demand for gas. As this research shows, there is not much gas left in UK waters. The opening of the new fields will only give us one more year’s worth of gas between next year and 2050. Stopping drilling is not ‘turning off the taps’, as some say, for the simple fact that the taps don’t flow anymore, they are leaking.”
The decision to go ahead with the new licenses comes despite advice from the International Energy Agency, which is mandated by the UK government, that there be no new exploration and development of oil and gas fields around the world. which must happen now if the world is to limit the increase in global temperatures. to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
Campaigners estimate that greenhouse gas emissions from the Rosebank field will exceed the proportion of the UK’s carbon budget that goes to oil and gas.
Lord Deben, who resigned as chair of the climate change committee at the end of June, has also strongly advised against new licences, although he supports continuing production from existing farms in the short term.
Labor has promised to stop licensing new oil and gas fields, if elected. However, if anything – like Rosebank – clears the final regulatory hurdles before the general election, Labor admits it cannot undo it.
The energy minister, Grant Shapps, and the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, sought to “use” Labour’s position by trying to match the Just Stop Oil protests. Over the weekend, the Sunday Times reported that the Labor leader, Keir Starmer, told an internal meeting that he “hated treehuggers”, seeing energy and environment policy lines as a problem. in the election.
Ed Miliband, the shadow climate secretary, said the party’s policies to stop new licensing and boost clean energy would improve energy security and lower bills, and accused Shapps and Sunak of “rejecting of science to continue a climate culture war”.
He said: “After 13 years of failure, the Conservatives have left our country too exposed with families and businesses paying the price. Instead of learning the lesson of this crisis, they are risking a final cost of living crisis with their decision to throw billions into a strategy to double down on fossil fuels instead of pursuing the clean energy Britain needs.
He added: “The only way to provide lower energy bills and security for our country is to move away from fossil fuels, and towards clean, affordable, homegrown power. That’s what the leading mission will deliver. of Labor to make the UK the first major economy in the world to have a clean electricity system by 2030.
Uplift’s analysis, based on data from the North Sea Transition Authority, which regulates the industry, found that there are gas fields in the North Sea with enough gas in just five years of the predicted level of demand.
Khan said this shows that ministers concerned about energy security should invest in low-carbon energy, which is cheaper and more sustainable. He pointed to research from the UCL Energy Institute, which concluded that with greater policy ambition the UK could become completely fossil fuel free by 2045. The demand for natural gas could be cut to almost zero by 2045, without imports from 2040.
He warned: “The UK will be forced to import more expensive gas unless we switch away from fossil fuels to heat our homes. This is a reality the government is ignorant of, refuses to face, or holding the public back.The longer they sit on their hands, the higher UK people and businesses will face high energy bills.
A spokesperson for the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero said: “We are building a future diverse energy mix that is cleaner, cheaper and safer and avoids increased dependence on foreign oil imports and gas as we move to net zero The transition to non-fossil forms of energy will not happen overnight and even if we are net zero, we will still need oil and gas, as recognized by the independent climate change committee. Sourcing gas domestically is also better for the environment because it has a smaller carbon footprint.