UK to grant new oil, gas licences despite zero-carbon aim

Britain will award hundreds of new licences to explore for oil and gas in the North Sea, its government says. PM Rishi Sunak said it was "vital" to boost the country's energy independence

Disused oil rings anchored in Scotland (photo: DW)
Disused oil rings anchored in Scotland (photo: DW)


The UK is to grant hundreds of new licences to seek and drill for gas and oil in the North Sea as it tries to bolster its energy security, the government said on Monday, July 31.

The announcement would appear to jeopardize the government's declared intention to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, with climate scientists in wide agreement that an end to new fossil fuel projects is necessary to meet net-zero goals.

The plans by the Conservative-led government are in stark contrast to pledges from the opposition Labour Party to ban new oil and gas projects in the North Sea.

What did the government say?

"Now more than ever, it's vital that we bolster our energy security and capitalize on that independence to deliver more affordable, clean energy to British homes and businesses," the office of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a statement.

"Investment in the North Sea will continue to unlock new projects, protect jobs, reduce emissions and boost UK energy independence," the statement said.

"As the UK is a rapidly declining producer of oil and gas, new oil and gas licenses reduce the fall in UK supply in order to ensure vital energy security, rather than increase it above current levels — so that the UK remains on track to meet net zero by 2050," it added.

It also said that two new carbon capture usage and storage clusters would be set up in North East Scotland and the Humber regions.

The oil and gas industry regulator expects the first of the new licenses to be awarded in the fall, the government said.

Many European nations have been seeking to diversify their energy supplies, particularly amid the fallout from Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, which has seen the supply of Russian oil and gas to several countries curbed or completely cut.

Sunak is due to visit a critical energy infrastructure site in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, on Monday.

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