Three leading oil and gas operators have been fined a total of £265,000 over breaching UK flaring and production agreements.
In an announcement today, the regulator, the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), announced sanctions against EnQuest, Equinor and Spirit Energy.
EnQuest was fined £150,000 for flaring more than 262 tonnes of gas on the Magnus Field in the North Sea between 30 November and 1 December 2021. NSTA said the company knew it did not have the necessary consent in place.
Equinor was fined £65,000 for a technical breach of flaring at least 348 tonnes of CO2 above the limit permitted on the North Sea Barnacle Field between June and November 2020.
Spirit Energy was fined £50,000 for exceeding the maximum allowed production volumes from the Rhyl Field in the Irish Sea between 2018-20 and the Ceres Field in the North Sea between 2019-20.
In today’s announcement, NSTA said it aimed to eliminate unnecessary or wasteful flaring and venting of gas. Routine flaring and venting is to be banned by 2030, it said.
Operators such as EnQuest and Equinor must follow a clear process to apply for consent to flare or vent gas, the regulator said.
In 2021, NSTA said flaring was responsible for 1% of UK annual CO2 emissions and a fifth of production-related CO2 emissions from UK offshore oil and gas operations. Vented gas offshore represented about 1% of total UK annual methane emissions.
The regulator said its guidance on flaring and venting aimed to help government meet the target of net zero emissions by 2050.
Earlier this year, it reported that overall emissions from North Sea oil and gas production activities fell by more than a fifth between 2018-2021.
On producing too much oil and gas, NSTA said this could reduce long-term production from a reservoir, threatening UK security of supply. It said where operators want to raise production they must apply for a new consent
Jane de Lozey, NSTA director of regulation, said:
“The NSTA is committed to supporting the UK’s energy security and lowering greenhouse gas emissions, including through the use of our robust consenting procedures, which drive down flaring and venting.
“We are encouraged by recent improvements on emissions and will take action to ensure this vital work is not undermined by companies who fail to meet their obligations.”
The fines are a tiny proportion of company earnings.
Equinor had record adjusted earnings of $24.3bn for July-September 2022. Enquest reported revenue and other operating income of $943.5m for the six months to the end of June 2022. Revenue in Spirit Energy for the year to December 2021 was £1.3bn.