North Sea operators hit with fines for historic emissions, over-production

A trio of companies with significant interest in oil and gas production off the British coast have been handed a combined bill of £265,000 for behaviour that undermines energy security and net zero transition. 

EnQuest, Spirit Energy and Equinor have all been named by the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), which overseas oil and gas projects in the maritime region, and issued with individual charges as part of a wider crack down. 

EnQuest alone has been asked to pay £150,000 — the largest ever fine from NTSA — for flaring an excess 262 tonnes of gas on its Magnus field. Spirit Energy, meanwhile, has to pay £50,000 for exceeding its maximum production allowance over three years at the Rhyl and Ceres fields, while Equinor will pay £65,000 for flaring 348 tonnes of CO2 above the permitted amount at the Barnacle field between June and November 2020. 

‘In 2020, Equinor became aware that it needed to log flaring allocations in the UK, in addition to Norway. 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,’ a spokesperson for Equinor told Energy Voice. ‘Equinor promptly reported the error to the NSTA and adjusted reporting protocols in response.’

According to the regulator, guidance on North Sea oil and gas production is in place to eliminate unnecessary or wasteful flaring and venting of gas. This is based on the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy’s net zero target for the UK. In October, Air Quality News reported on a study that suggests oil and gas flaring can release significantly more harmful emissions than once thought. Meanwhile, research published in March pointed to a strong connection between premature death and gas flaring.

Image: Ben Wicks


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