Another call for earlier ban on flaring in oil and gas fields

Routine flaring on oil and gas fields should be banned by 2025, a review of the government’s net zero strategy has concluded.

In a key recommendation, the author, the Conservative MP Chris Skidmore, said:

“Industry should accelerate the end to routine flaring from 2030 to 2025.”

This is the second report this month to call for a ban on flaring in the next two years. A cross-party report by the House of Commons environmental audit committee made the same recommendation on 5 January.

Mr Skidmore was commissioned by the former prime minister, Liz Truss, to review UK proposals to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Last year, the government accepted a ruling by the High Court that its net zero strategy was unlawful. The landmark judgement agreed with arguments by Friends of the Earth, ClientEarth and Good Law Project that the strategy failed to show how the UK’s legally-binding carbon budgets would be met.

Mr Skidmore said today that the UK had successfully started to replace fossil fuels with greener, cleaner alternatives.

But he said the country was falling behind on some targets and needed a new approach. Delaying climate action risked damaging UK economic prospects, he said:

“to reach net zero we need to go even faster on making changes to the power and fuels we use – and make sure the UK benefits from growth in these new technologies. Rolling out these technologies will require a step change in how we approach energy security, infrastructure, and supply.”

The review ran to 340 pages and had 129 recommendations.

It said flaring was responsible for 22% of carbon emissions on oil and gas fields. About 70% of oil and gas field emissions were from powering equipment on platforms, it said.

The offshore industry published a Methane Action Plan in 2021 to reduce emissions and flaring. This committed the industry to a 50% methane emission reduction by 2030, compared with 2018 levels. Shell has committed to zero routine flaring by 2025.

The Skidmore report said:

“We recommend that industry follows suit”.

It said the industry regulator, the North Sea Transition Authority should improve transparency on progress against the emissions and flaring targets at a company level by the end of this year.

The review made no specific reference to onshore oil and gas. But it also called on the government to:

  • Ensure all new oil or gas fields were designed for conversion to electrification
  • Ensure that Climate Compatibility Checkpoint in oil and gas licences was an effective tool to shape policymaking
  • Consider requiring fossil fuel producers to meet a 10% target for carbon storage by 2035
  • Include a net zero fund for clean offshore technologies in the 2023 consultation on long-term tax treatment for the North Sea
  • Publish a strategy by the end of 2024 to include roles and responsibilities for electrification of oil and gas infrastructure, including planning process, timetables and regulation

The report says the UK must “double down on production of renewables, nuclear and hydrogen and other low carbon fuels to give our future energy system a homegrown, secure platform”. But it added:

“in the short term we still need oil and gas to secure our energy independence and as transition fuels towards 2050.”

It predicted the UK would continue to be dependent on gas for heating buildings and marginal power production. Demand for fossil fuels would fall in some parts of the economy, such as surface transport, the report said. But demand could rise in other parts, such as petrochemicals. The report concluded:

“That is why, only when absolutely necessary for security, we need domestic production and storage of fossil fuels to reduce our vulnerability to international oil and gas imports.”

It said replacing imported LNG (liquified natural gas) with domestically-sourced gas did not have to come at the cost of meeting UK carbon budget targets. Gas from the UK continental shelf could create less than half as much greenhouse gas as imported LNG, the report said. But it added:

“we must do more to make the extraction of oil and gas cleaner. Importing gas via pipeline from Norway produces a lower average emissions intensity than UK domestic production. We must therefore find ways to make extraction as clean as possible and avoid stranded assets.”

The review also called for planning rules to be scrapped for roof-top solar panels and it recommended the phase out of gas boilers by 2033, two years earlier than planned.


The campaign group, Client Earth, said:

“Last year the High Court ordered the UK government to strengthen its net zero plans after our legal win. This review further confirms that it must set out more ambitious climate policy that goes further and faster in cutting energy costs and emissions.”

The shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, said:

“This underlines the Tory dither and refusal to tackle the climate crisis or boost our energy security. And it reveals the failure to grasp the opportunities for good, new jobs across Britain. Only Labour can deliver a fairer, greener future for Britain.”

The Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas, said:

“This Net Zero Review must spell an end to government’s current approach of ducking, dodging and delaying action. That means turbo-charging onshore wind and solar, with solar panels on every new roof – and it means locking out climate-wrecking fossil fuels for good.”

Doug Parr, chief scientist of Greenpeace UK, said there was a strong overall message in the review:

“We’re in a different era from 2010s. UK faces bigger economic risks from getting left behind than going too fast. China, US, EU are in a clean tech race. Join in or get squashed.”

Friends of the Earth said:

“The idea that climate action and economic growth are at odds is seriously outdated. It’s time for the government to wake up and act! A green transition is vital for the future of our planet, and for our economy too.”

WWF UK said:

“Chris Skidmore’s comprehensive review makes it clear that meeting climate targets is the key to our future prosperity. The government must accept the recommendations of the review & begin the real work to deliver on its climate promises.”

16 replies »

  1. Hmm, I preferred the bit that stated locally produced gas has half the emissions as imported LNG!

    What a shock??!!

      • Don’t be so hard on yourself, 1720!

        If home grown pollutants are a fraction of imported pollutants, that is progress. You are one who wants to deliberately campaign against progress. Must be a case of climate change denial, to add to the denial of arithmetic and the denial of facts. Seems to take a lot of denial to make other arguments. Therefore, perhaps there is something amiss with the other arguments?

        EVs made in UK create pollutants, but have certain advantages over imported EVs. Hmm, they should all go in the bin??!!

        • What a pity my comment is neither understood nor addressed. Should I expect anything else from one who thinks the sums are all that matter?
          The cost of everything and the value of nothing [Edited by moderator]

          • I think you conflate understanding with accepting, 1720.

            Perhaps your English needs as much work as your arithmetic? Lower emissions are factual, and the value of that is pretty evident and simple. Progress is progress.

            Another smokescreen attempt from yourself to deny the obvious, but “must try harder.”

      • Relatively more local than USA, Middle East, Australia, Nigeria and Mozambique, Alan.

        Mermaids? Think you are too long within the anti fantasy world. If there had been any, they would all be killed off by now due to local and distant maritime transport emissions produced by countries too complacent to move forward on a path of transition, with gradual improvements not only adding up but encouraging further transition. Surely, that is the way transition works?

        However, if you desire another Torrey Canyon, I would prefer to avoid one, or more.

      • But Alan Mermaids exist in a Green Party’s Agenda, Doesn’t it!!
        Does the Green Party have any alternatives, to replacing Fossil Fuels for Energy or is it Mermaids Tears and Unicorn Farts acceptable?? Wind and Waves do not and can not fill the gap, as the wind isn’t blowing and waves are not where the populations is!! The LNG Importation is more damaging than locally produced Energy, and Yes the Energy Companies have ‘Rights’ to prospect on the UK Continental Shelf, FACT! Or are you a Green party couch representative stalling progress, when you do not understand how the energy industry works!!

  2. There is no mention of tidal power in the report or subsequent comments. Tidal power is a secure form of energy and is available continuously with properly designed schemes.
    The Environment Agency issue Permits to pollute the environment and this is supported by the Office for Environmental Pollution each of whom have a Statutory Duty to prevent pollution not encourage it.

    • Maybe Derek there is a financial reason why tidal has not attracted financial support?

      I can certainly see the merit of small scale, local and relatively inexpensive schemes. Problem is, when it is a case of upscaling to produce a significant output costs go through the roof.

      Last time I looked, the Swansea Tidal Lagoon had failed to get environmental support from the good people of St. Keverne who would have been required to have their neighbourhood blasted to kingdom come.

  3. In my previous comment I might have referred to the new Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) as the Office for Environmental Pollution,.
    This was a typing error, but in fact my misnaming was probably as result of a year long negotiation in which OEP gave support to massive environmental pollution, which is being allowed to occur by the Environment Agency throughout the UK

  4. Interesting, but false statement from FOE-what’s new!?

    Seems they think they know more than Equinor, who have stated that high energy bills will stay. Why? Due to costs of transition!

    The tip of that iceberg is just coming into view. £200B for new nuclear to back up the unreliable renewables emerging into the light of day, to be followed by the costs of nuclear generated electricity. Strange (lol) that such items were not plonked out for public scrutiny before they became so obvious. Bit like the youngster being conned to buy the “cheap” hotrod then finding the insurance premium is crippling, yet still expecting someone else will fund their mistake.

    Then, for all those who were thinking they were doing the right thing installing wood burners, sorry but you have been sold a pup which causes massive pollution. E10 petrol? That looks another disaster as wheat prices go through the roof adding to cost of living, and cars develop problems, with scientists now suggesting that the carbon footprint is really no better than for fossil fuel.

    Oh, and the latest from IOW-they are complaining about their landscape being ruined by vast areas of greenfield land being covered by solar farms! Not much wheat can be grown under a solar panel. By the way, wheat is the main ingredient in animal feed, so take out a mortgage to buy your eggs.

    Don’t like to spoil the fantasy but when economies are leaking money into paying high energy bills then people struggle to pay other bills, and afford to purchase other things. Don’t believe me, take a look at the recent decline in house prices, or Tesla slashing prices or strikers wanting others to enable paying for cost of living.

    The argument will be that it will all return to normal after the war in Ukraine has been settled. That argument has already been made on DoD. It is equally false. The costs of transition are real, have not been honestly put forward for scrutiny but will still become evident to all. The war in Ukraine has just accelerated the start of the process. UK will not have a booming economy from exporting renewable technology. It has had little impact to date, apart from those who sold the wood burners, or the landowners who were bribed to allow wind turbines on their land. My local solar farm was built with labour from Poland and kit from overseas. Why should that change? The one big change will be another £200B of energy bill money paying for new nuclear, that will then not be spent by consumers on other things. Yet to see any assessment of the cost of disposing of the nuclear waste, that will be emerging about the time the grandchildren start to pay taxes.

    • PS-I note Germany has proposed that it will withdraw from using crops for food and animals to produce biofuel! Took a long time but somewhere a collection of grey cells has triumphed.

      Goodness, does anyone actually consider these things or is a dart board used?

      Then, in the last few days there is Britishvolt debacle, Tesla shareholders start their action against Mr. Musk and other shareholders who invested in ITM Power are wondering where their money has gone.

      Oh yes, and today in the HoC there was a question about the large increase in house fires alleged to have been caused by faulty solar panels.

      Looks like the inmates are running the asylum.

      • An electrician who is a part time fireman commented that EV car fires are a major hazard in that they cannot be put out with water or CO2, and you cannot touch them due to potential high voltage shock for the emergency services. I assume that the risk to the driver / passengers is very high also. Fortunately EV fires are rare but will no doubt increase as sales increase.

      • PPS-Looks as if off shore wind turbine manufacture is not the route for all these new jobs, either. Take a look at the latest results from the world’s largest supplier (Siemens Gamesa)-still massive financial losses, job cuts and a product that requires excessive maintenance and repair-hence the financial losses and job cuts.

        Looks as if the jobs are as unreliable as the product.

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