UKOOA warns of UK marine licensing bill's impact

While applauding objectives of the UK Marine Bill White Paper to streamline current marine oil and gas licensing, the UK Offshore Operators' Association warned Mar. 15 that energy companies could face delays in securing governmental approval for new offshore projects because the proposed bill could add "another layer of bureaucracy" in the environmental sphere.

Uchenna Izundu
International Editor

LONDON, Mar. 23 -- While applauding objectives of the UK Marine Bill White Paper to streamline current marine oil and gas licensing, the UK Offshore Operators' Association warned Mar. 15 that energy companies could face delays in securing governmental approval for new offshore projects because the proposed bill could add "another layer of bureaucracy" in the environmental sphere.

Although oil and gas licensing will remain with the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI), industry UKOOA officials are concerned that delays could occur in the recovery of a potential 25 billion boe on the mature UK continental shelf.

The UK is seeking feedback by Jun. 8 on initiatives launched by the bill to protect the marine environment. The new UK-wide system also is designed to make development cheaper, more-efficient, and consistent for all participants and would assist in marine planning to help businesses with their investments.

"The proposals in the Marine Bill White Paper are a first for the UK and would raise planning for the management and protection of our seas to a world-leading level," said Environment Secretary David Miliband.

UKOOA said the offshore industry has minimized its environmental footprint by reducing discharges and improving such technologies as directional drilling from locations remote from environmentally sensitive areas.

Offshore gas storage
The government also is working with DTI to develop subseabed gas storage legislation and would monitor the impacts of any storage projects. "The path for introducing an enabling regime is not yet certain," an official said, "but the Marine Bill is available as an option, should the timing be right."

He said the White Paper will not cover oil and gas exploration and production in the licensing system because that is sufficiently regulated by the Petroleum Act 1968 and controlled by DTI.

However, despite the partnership between DTI and the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra), which published the White Paper, there is growing concern among UK petroleum officials about DTI's future role once the leader of the ruling Labour Party Tony Blair leaves office this summer.

Industry executives are worried that Blair's successor might dismantle DTI, including the Energy Group, and incorporate this within a new department together with the part of Defra that currently deals with climate change.

Contact Uchenna Izundu at uchennai@pennwell.com.

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