“The main regulator of North Sea oil and gas doesn’t conduct physical inspections to ensure companies operating in the region are following the rules, DeSmog can reveal.
The revelations, labelled “deeply troubling” by campaigners, come as the government and the regulator, the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), have announced plans to approve drilling at a new oil field, Rosebank, that could produce 69,000 barrels of oil and 44 million cubic feet of gas a day.
DeSmog filed a freedom of information request (FOI) to the NSTA asking the regulator how it ensured companies stayed within the oil and gas extraction maximums outlined in their licences. These rules govern, among other things, how much oil and gas companies are allowed to extract, and the amount of emissions they can produce in the process.
In its response, the NSTA told DeSmog that a company “must notify” the NSTA if a production limit is breached in the North Sea, but that the NSTA itself “does not undertake offshore inspections to ensure compliance with production consents”.
When asked how, given the lack of inspections, the regulator would ensure that companies are being accurate when they self-report the emissions being produced, the regulator said it hosted “an annual consents exercise” (seemingly a single meeting) during which they remind operators of “their obligations and how to ensure they remain in regulatory compliance”.
The findings suggest that operators in the North Sea are left to largely self-regulate – declaring themselves when they break the legal rules governing their operations.
According to Violation Tracker UK, the NSTA has issued just two fines worth £100,000 since 2021 related to companies exceeding the oil and gas extraction limits in their licence.
“This FOI reveals deeply troubling findings about the lack of proper regulation of North Sea oil and gas extraction,” said Matthew Lawrence, the director of the Common Wealth think tank.”
Read the full story at DeSmog.