The Oil & Gas Authority has said it is working with the industry during the covid-19 outbreak to safeguard energy supply and jobs.
In a message to the industry, the OGA’s chief executive, Andy Samuel, promised “a pragmatic approach to compliance” and a “flexible approach” on amendments to the timelines of licences.
The coronavirus pandemic, along with a significant fall in oil prices, “had hit the UK oil and gas industry hard”, Dr Samuel said.
“The scale of the challenge is considerable, and the efforts of all parties are fixed on successfully navigating through this unprecedented period of uncertainty.”
The OGA issues and regulates exploration and production licences to oil and gas companies. Onshore licences, known as PEDLs, include work programmes which must be met by key deadlines.
The work programmes agreed for the most recent licences, issued in 2015, required companies to drill a total of 97 wells and frack 12 of them by July 2021. So far, only five planning applications have been submitted in these PEDLs, by three companies.
Some of the 2015 PEDLs have already had deadlines extended. A freedom of information request revealed that the time limit for drilling had been changed in PEDL257 in Surrey, PEDL260 in Cumbria and PEDL339 in Lincolnshire.
DrillOrDrop asked the OGA for more detail about how its approach would change with covid 19.
A spokesperson said the regulator recognised the pressures on the industry from low commodity prices and “operational issues with personnel and critical infrastructure”:
“what the OGA is seeking to do under the current circumstances is be as flexible as possible with operators, working with them to understand their needs and concerns, and to consider how best we can be sensible and realistic when dealing with compliance and licensing matters.”
Update: Correction of number of planning applications and company applicants. Applications have been submitted for sites at Marsh Lane, Harthill and Woodsetts (all Ineos), Arreton (UKOG) and Puddletown (South West Energy)