Prime Minister jets into North-east to announce energy sector support

31/07/2023

PRIME Minister Rishi Sunak will arrive in Aberdeen shortly to formally announce significant support for the region’s oil and gas sector.

First he will head to Aberdeenshire to set-out funding for the Acorn project at St Fergus, which will become Scotland’s first carbon-capture-and-storage facility, creating 21,000 jobs.

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He will also hold a roundtable with energy sector bosses after confirming this morning that at least 100 new North Sea drilling licences will be issued, saying it makes “no sense” to import increasing amounts of oil and gas when we have a domestic supply.

During a visit to the North-east, the PM is to say that cutting back domestic energy supply would leave the UK more reliant on costly imports.

On his trip to meet energy industry leaders, he is set to portray the Conservatives as the only party backing North Sea oil and gas – part of an attempt to damage Labour’s electoral hopes in Scotland.

The PM has confirmed today that hundreds of new oil and gas licences will be granted in the UK.

The government says it is continuing to back the North Sea oil and gas industry as part of drive to make Britain more energy independent.

Westminster and the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) are today announcing a joint commitment to undertake future licencing rounds.

Licencing round

The NSTA – responsible for regulating the oil, gas and carbon storage industries – is currently running the 33rd offshore oil and gas licensing round.

It expects the first of the new licences to be awarded in the autumn, with the round expected to award over 100 licences in total.

The government says future licences will be critical to providing energy security options, unlocking carbon-capture storage and hydrogen opportunities – building truly integrated offshore energy hubs that make the best use of the established infrastructure.

This comes as new analysis released by the NSTA today shows that the carbon footprint of domestic gas production is only around one-quarter of the carbon footprint of imported liquified natural gas.

A call for evidence has also been launched by Government today, seeking views on the evolving context for taxes for the oil and gas sector to design a long-term fiscal regime which delivers predictability and certainty, supports investment, protects jobs and the country’s energy security.

Sir Keir, the Labour leader, has attempted to frame his flagship eco measures, such as clean energy targets, around the ability to bring down household bills.

Labour would allow existing offshore oil and gas fields to keep extracting if it takes office next year, but will not approve new drilling .

A No.10 source told the Telegraph: “They are literally saying they eventually want to shut down the oil and gas fields in the North Sea, which is totally counter-productive.

“It is cheaper for us to supply energy than import it. If you’re reducing or making that supply more expensive, then the costs go up.”

In the past, Mr Sunak has called Labour’s North Sea oil position “bizarre”, warning that it would bring “weakness and dependency” that would benefit “dictators and autocrats”.

Reaction

Russell Borthwick, chief executive of Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement on new licences

“What we are expecting to hear today from the PM is very good news for the nation and this region in particular,” he said.

“In the midst of a hugely polarised debate around energy – with much of the commentary characterising it as a battle of good versus evil (which it is not) – the Chamber has been making the case for many months that the UK must produce as much of our required supply as possible here, with full control over the regulatory environment in which it is extracted, protecting and creating high value jobs.

“The alternative being that we import an increasing amount of our energy, with the heavier carbon toll and supply risks that shipping it from other parts of the world carries. The latter option makes little economic sense, and even less environmental sense.”

Meanwhile, dozens of environmental groups have warned the prime minister they will not “stand by” while politicians use the environment as a “political football”.

More than 50 organisations have written to Rishi Sunak expressing “deep alarm” at reports his government may water down its green commitments.

They have requested an urgent meeting with the prime minister.

Mr Sunak said he was committed to meeting the 2050 net-zero target in a “pragmatic and proportionate way”.

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