Three major oil and gas firms have been fined a total of £265,000 for actions that have impacted the industry’s efforts to cut back on emissions, a regulatory body has said.
Inspectors revealed UK-based EnQuest was fined £150,000 for flaring an excess 262 tonnes of gas on the Magnus Field, in the North Sea, between November 30 and December 1 last year, despite knowing it did not have the necessary consent in place.
The NSTA’s flaring and venting guidance aims to eliminate unnecessary or wasteful flaring and venting of gas, with an aim for zero routine flaring and venting by 2030.
This is in line with the central obligation of the NSTA’s strategy, which includes a requirement for industry to assist the Business and Energy Secretary in meeting the net zero target.
Ola Morten Aanestad, of Equinor, said the fine relates to an administrative breach on the cross-border field.
He said “not a cubic centimetre of gas from Barnacle has been flared in the UK and not a gram of CO2 has been emitted without being accounted for”.
“Barnacle is developed with a single well drilled from the Statfjord B platform on the Norwegian side of the median line,” he added.
“Any flaring from the field therefore happens and is accounted for in Norwegian waters.
“The flaring on Statfjord was within Norwegian permits, but, technically, the field was operating outside the UK flaring consent for a period of four months due to the missing logs.”
Meanwhile, Spirit Energy has been fined £50,000 for exceeding the maximum allowed production volumes from two fields over three years.
The NSTA said producing too much oil and gas can reduce the overall long-term production from a reservoir, to the detriment of the UK’s security of supply, so it is vital that when an operator wants to raise production it applies for a new consent so its new plan can be assessed.
A spokesperson for Spirit Energy said: “After identifying the circumstances which gave rise to this sanction, Spirit reported them to the NSTA and fully co-operated with their investigation.
“Spirit also conducted its own separate internal review.
“Both investigations have now concluded, with Spirit implementing all resulting recommendations with a view to ensuring its future compliance with production consents.”
An EnQuest spokesman said: “EnQuest can confirm it has been sanctioned by the North Sea Transition Authority for a breach of flaring consent that occurred on the group’s Magnus asset in November 2021.
“The NSTA recognised that EnQuest made contact promptly and maintained a constructive dialogue over the course of the incident. EnQuest took immediate steps to shut production down on December 1 2021 until authority to restart by the NSTA was received in writing on December 3 2021.
“The regulator also recognised that the group had fully co-operated with the enquiry and investigation that followed. The company also conducted its own internal review to determine the cause of the failure and to prevent any future failure to comply.
“Notwithstanding the above, EnQuest accepts the NSTA’s sanction and will meet its obligations to pay the financial penalty as required by the regulator.”
Jane de Lozey, NSTA director of regulation, said: “The NSTA is committed to supporting the UK’s energy security and lowering greenhouse gas emissions, including through the use of our robust consenting procedures, which drive down flaring and venting.
“We are encouraged by recent improvements on emissions and will take action to ensure this vital work is not undermined by companies who fail to meet their obligations.”
NSTA said operators such as EnQuest and Equinor must follow a clear process to apply for consent to flare or vent gas.
The regulatory body said progress has been encouraging with overall emissions from North Sea oil and gas production activities down 21.5% between 2018 and 2021.
Last year, flaring on the UK Continental Shelf, the region of waters surrounding the United Kingdom, was at a record low, having been cut by 20% to 25.8 billion cubic feet of gas, a reduction equivalent to the annual gas demand of 130,000 UK homes.