UK’s OGA orders zero routine flaring & venting for all by 2030 latest

UK’s petroleum regulator, the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA), has issued a consolidated and updated guidance on flaring and venting, which sets out a tougher approach to driving reductions, through clear principles and using the OGA consenting regime and stewardship activity.

Illustration; Source: Hurricane Energy
venting and flaring guidance - OGA UK
Illustration; Source: Hurricane Energy

As previously reported, the OGA has been working for a while now to scrutinise requests for flaring and venting of greenhouse gases offshore the UK to drive improved performance, with an aim of helping the country reach its net-zero goals.

The OGA in September 2020, for the first time, expanded its benchmarking to the flaring and venting of greenhouse gases on the UKCS.

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According to the OGA’s statement on Tuesday, this new approach is supported by updated reporting and disclosure such as the OGA’s forthcoming emissions report, use of flaring and venting benchmarking, and the monthly data published through the OGA Open Data Portal.

Forecasts suggest oil and gas will continue to play a role in the UK energy mix for the foreseeable future. Some flaring and venting is necessary for safe and efficient production, but the volume can be reduced, the regulator explained.

Flaring is responsible for a fifth of UK offshore oil and gas production-related carbon dioxide emissions and 1 per cent of total UK annual CO2 emissions. Vented gas offshore represents about 0.15 per cent of total UK greenhouse gas emissions, including around 1 per cent of total UK annual methane emissions.

OGA – new flaring & venting guidance

The new guidance includes principles that the OGA expects the industry to follow in relation to flaring and venting.

These include the guidance that flaring and venting and associated emissions should be at the lowest possible levels in the circumstances, the guidance that all new developments pre-concept select should be planned and developed on the basis of zero routine flaring and venting, and zero routine flaring and venting for all by 2030 at the latest.

The new guidance also includes details on the OGA approach to using its consenting regime to drive continuous reduction and, where possible, elimination of flaring and venting. The OGA can order production to stop if flaring and venting is excessive.

Furthermore, operators must inform the OGA as soon as it becomes clear that there is a risk of flaring or venting consent breach. The OGA will only consider consent variations as a last resort option and requires adequate time to assess requests. Operators may have to curtail or stop production to stay within consent limits.

Guidance on how the OGA will engage with operators to encourage reductions in flaring and venting is also included – and the expectation that operators utilise best available technology to measure, monitor and manage flaring and venting and associated emissions.

Finally, the guidance includes new data reporting requirements to support OGA emissions monitoring, OGA stewardship, and regulation.

Hedvig Ljungerud, Director of Strategy, said: “We are committed to driving down greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector, both supporting and holding the industry to account in reaching its target to become a net-zero basin by 2050.

“Today’s publication marks another step on that path, with a clear focus, including new developments to be planned on the basis of zero routine flaring and venting. We will monitor actual outcomes closely and reflect in decision-making when operators apply for consents and authorisations”.

It is also worth reminding that, in March 2021, the OGA reported that flaring in the North Sea had been reduced to the lowest level on the UKCS on OGA records.