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The United Kingdom is taking steps to reduce emissions from oil and gas rigs in the North Sea. Reports suggest that platforms in UK waters may be required to convert to green energy or low-carbon fuels or face closure and bans on opening new platforms. Currently, there are over 280 oil and gas platforms in UK waters, producing 3% of the country’s total CO2 emissions and nearly half of its energy. The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) has the regulatory authority over UK waters and has given oil producers an ultimatum to transition to more sustainable energy sources.

The NSTA is pushing for all new rigs after 2030 to be fully electrified, while existing platforms will need to be converted to run on electricity. This may be a costly endeavor for platforms dating back to the 1970s and 1980s. Some platforms may need to connect to land power or build wind farms near each platform for electricity connections. The agency is also aiming to end flaring, or burning off methane, by offshore platform operators. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, nearly 80 times more harmful than CO2. The NSTA aims to phase out flaring and venting by 2030 to reduce emissions further.

The Energy Act of 1976, amended in 2016, and the Petroleum Act of 1998 give the NSTA regulatory power over flaring and venting. The agency has seen progress in reducing industry flaring volumes by around 50% since 2018 but believes more can be done. While some flaring is necessary for safety and operational reasons, the NSTA wants wasteful flaring of gas to be prevented. The plan to transition to electrification and low carbon power is at the heart of emissions reductions in the oil and gas industry in the North Sea.

Although the NSTA is pushing for a transition to more sustainable energy sources, the agency aims to avoid unintended consequences while applying the plan reasonably. The plan may impact field development plans that do not align with the electrification and emissions reduction goals set by the NSTA. The agency is focused on ensuring that progress is made towards reducing emissions from oil and gas platforms in UK waters. Overall, the UK is taking steps towards greener practices in the oil and gas industry to combat climate change and reduce CO2 emissions.

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