Oil background image

Oil and Gas UK calls for more oil fields ahead of 2050 net zero carbon goal

Image credit: Dreamstime

A trade body representing the UK’s oil and gas sector has called for greater investment in new oil and gas fields despite ongoing efforts to reach net zero carbon by 2050.

Oil and Gas UK (OGUK) said that UK had to import 56 per cent of its gas to meet record demand in winter 2021.

With many staying in their homes more than usual due to the Covid-19 lockdowns, gas demand from consumers rose in order to heat their homes. But OGUK warned that with gas output from the North Sea in long-term decline, the UK faces increasing pressure to import more gas unless efforts are made to boost domestic production.

While gas is less carbon-intensive than some fossil fuels like coal, the UK will struggle to meet its 2050 carbon neutral goals if it continues to rely on it.

The UK is now among Europe’s largest consumers of gas. According to OGUK’s latest report, approximately 23 million homes (85 per cent) rely on it for central heating and hot water, as well as providing heat and power for business and generating 35 per cent of the UK’s electricity.

One way of lowering the carbon intensity of the UK’s gas heated houses could be through greater use of hydrogen. In January, a group of gas companies published a plan to boost hydrogen usage, including a target of one fifth of gas used in UK homes to be hydrogen by 2023.

The OGUK report stated that the UK still gets 73 per cent of its total energy from gas and oil, with production from the UK Continental Shelf providing around 70 per cent of this demand.

While renewables met 42 per cent of electricity demand in 2020, electricity only accounts for 20 per cent of the UK’s total energy use, the report stated.

Lower wind speeds and higher demand in the first quarter of this year created a shortfall, which was met by a 6.8 per cent increase in gas generation.

The report also states that North Sea oil and gas remains an essential product for manufacturing both domestically and internationally and is used in everyday items such as clothes, medicines and smartphones, as well as vehicles and road surfacing.

OGUK chief executive Deirdre Michie said: “Oil and gas provided nearly three-quarters of the UK’s total energy last year, and we will continue to rely on them to heat our homes, keep our lights on and create many of our everyday essentials from medicines to mobile phones to road surfaces. About 85 per cent of UK homes are still heated by gas but imported gas hit a record high last year.”

The Government is facing Greenpeace in court today, with the charity arguing that it has a legal duty to check if oil production will harm the climate before approving new oil permits.

It recently granted BP a permit to drill 30 million barrels of oil with Greenpeace alleging that it did not consider the climate impacts of burning the oil once extracted.

Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.

Recent articles