UK oil & gas regulator rebrands to reflect role in energy transition

UK’s oil and gas regulator, the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA), has changed its name to the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) to reflect its evolving role in the energy transition.

In 2021, the OGA revised its strategy to put net-zero at the heart of the work alongside the important role of stewarding production. In March last year, the North Sea Transition Deal between government and industry set out an ambitious programme for this path and the crucial role that the UK’s oil and gas industry should play.

As explained by the regulator, the new name embraces this new context and its expanding role in energy transition, including as the carbon storage licence and permitting authority, monitoring of emissions, assessing a net-zero test for new developments, and stewarding domestic production.

The OGA’s rebrand comes less than two months after Oil & Gas UK (OGUK), a representative body for the UK’s offshore oil and gas industry, also rebranded, and changed its name to Offshore Energies UK, to include the low-carbon offshore energy technologies that its members are developing.

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The role of oil and gas will reduce over the coming years, but they currently provide about 75 per cent of the UK’s energy needs and will remain an essential part of the energy mix for some time to come.

However, the government has signalled its intention to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 (2045 in Scotland) and the North Sea has a vital part to play in reaching that goal. At the same time, ongoing global and geopolitical events have made it clearer than ever that security of supply remains important as the transition is achieved.

The NSTA said it will continue to play a vital role in ensuring energy security as the body that stewards the oil and gas industry, both on and offshore, with energy transition issues already playing a significant and increasing role in the organisation’s day-to-day activities.

The industry is expected to play a key role in the energy transition and support energy security through producing domestic oil and gas over the coming decades as well as reducing its own carbon footprint, while government and regulators must provide clear leadership and bolster confidence for the necessary continued investment.

As detailed by the regulator, its specific workstreams include stewarding ongoing production from oil and gas fields; licensing and stewarding new oil and gas developments from licensing to production; monitoring industry greenhouse gas emissions in line with the North Sea Transition Deal; encouraging platform electrification projects in the Central North Sea and West of Shetland.

Furthermore, as the licensing authority for carbon storage, its workstreams include stewarding projects through development and supporting the government’s CCS deployment pathway; providing a huge quantity of data required to assist in finding suitable locations for oil and gas exploration as well as carbon storage and other projects; working with industry to support improved environmental, social and governance reporting; leading studies to assess the potential for hydrogen power and carbon storage in hubs such as Bacton; driving offshore energy integration to build closer links between oil and gas and renewables and reduce carbon emissions from oil and gas production.

Andy Samuel; Source: OGA/North Sea Transition Authority
Andy Samuel; Source: OGA/NSTA

Dr Andy Samuel, North Sea Transition Authority Chief Executive, said: “The UK is moving to a net-zero, low carbon future and the Russian government’s invasion of Ukraine reinforces the need for pace. Meanwhile oil and gas remain vital for energy security as we transition. The NSTA is ideally placed to support both.

“Our values remain the same while the organisation is adapting to meet the UK’s changing needs. We will continue our strong focus on value creation for government, the public and industry.”

It is worth reminding that Samuel will be stepping down from his role at the end of the year after eight years.

Speaking of energy security in the light of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, Samuel said: “The energy Trilemma of security, affordability and sustainability is not a new phenomenon. However, the amount of attention the constituent parts receive is rarely balanced.

“COP26 reinforced the urgency of the climate crisis and the importance of sustainability, the recent rise in global energy demand brought affordability to the forefront, and the war in Ukraine has put security of supply in the spotlight. Finding the right pathway to net zero, and showing sound leadership means always keeping all three in mind.”

Energy and Climate Change Minister, Greg Hands, said: “We are determined to generate more clean, cheap energy in the UK to reduce our exposure to volatile global gas markets, while continuing to back North Sea oil and gas for the security of supply.”

Simon Roddy, SVP Shell UK, Upstream, said: “The North Sea will remain at the heart of the UK’s energy system as we transition. The new name for the regulator rightly reflects the changing role of our industry and we look forward to continued collaboration as we deliver on our common goal of the North Sea Transition Deal.”