The North Sea oil and gas industry is on track to meet early emissions reduction targets, according to new analysis from the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA).
The organisation, formerly known as the Oil and Gas Authority, said the sector posted cuts of more than one fifth between 2018 and 2021.
Analysis from the latest Emissions Monitoring Report, released on Wednesday, showed greenhouse gas emissions were slashed by an estimated 14.6% to 14.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) last year.
This adds up to an overall reduction of 21.5% since 2018.
The NSTA says bold measures will be required to hit the goal of halving emissions by 2030, with the upgrading of platforms to run on clean electricity, rather than gas or diesel, being “essential”.
It says that without such action, targets agreed on as part of the North Sea Transition Deal (NSTD) will not be delivered.
The industry has made impressive progress on reducing emissions during a turbulent period
Dr Andy Samuel, NSTA
Meeting the targets is the “absolute minimum” the organisation expects from the oil and gas industry, it said.
Dr Andy Samuel, chief executive of the NSTA, said: “The industry has made impressive progress on reducing emissions during a turbulent period marked by a global pandemic and unprecedented price volatility.
“Energy security is more sharply in focus than ever and the NSTA is working closely with industry and government to bring new oil and gas projects online and bolster UK energy supply. This vital work sits alongside emissions reduction goals.
“The NSTA will continue to hold industry to account to make sure it delivers on, and surpasses, its targets.
“The excellent progress on flaring is another example of our sharp focus on performance combining to good effect with rapid industry action to support emissions reductions and energy security.
“As a result, flaring has been on a declining trend since 2018 and the reductions achieved in 2021 alone were equivalent to the annual gas demand of 130,000 UK homes.”
However, environmental campaigners have accused the authority of focusing “solely on the emissions from producing UK oil and gas”.
They are fiddling while the planet burns
Ryan Morrison, Friends of the Earth Scotland
Friends of the Earth Scotland criticised the report for failing to mention “the far greater amount of climate changing pollution from burning the oil and gas”.
Campaigner Ryan Morrison said: “The North Sea Transition Authority might want to pat itself on the back but they are fiddling while the planet burns.
“Their focus on the emissions from getting oil out of the ground intentionally ignores and obscures the far greater climate impact of burning the oil and gas that is produced.
“The irony should not be lost on anyone that as the fossil fuel industry thinks about attaching wind turbines to oil platforms, they are also pushing to drill every last drop of oil and gas. Worse still, this report shows that the pollution from each barrel is higher than the majority of other countries and has actually increased in the last year.
“Both climate science and energy experts are crystal clear that there can be no new oil or gas developments if we want to stay within the agreed limits of global temperature rises, no matter how much the industry tinkers around the edges of North Sea emissions.”