ARKANSAS, Oct 30 (Future Headlines)- Despite criticism from climate activists, Britain’s oil and gas regulator, the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), recently granted 27 new hydrocarbon exploration licenses. This move comes at a time when environmentalists are pressing the government to halt new drilling operations. The licensing round, the first since 2019, was initiated around a year ago and attracted 115 applications from 76 different companies.

Notably, some North Sea producers abstained from participating in this round due to the introduction of a windfall tax on the sector by the British government. The successful bidders who have received licenses to explore new oil and gas reserves in the British North Sea include major players like Shell, Equinor, DNO, Aker BP, Ithaca, TotalEnergies, and BP.

Greenpeace attempted to legally challenge the licensing round by contending that the criteria used by authorities failed to account for greenhouse gas emissions produced by the combustion of the oil and gas extracted. However, the High Court in London rejected Greenpeace’s challenge earlier this month. Despite this ruling, Greenpeace intends to appeal the decision. The government maintains that permitting new oil and gas exploration aligns with its goal of achieving a net-zero carbon economy by 2050.

To put the situation in perspective, at the beginning of the millennium, the United Kingdom was producing approximately 4.4 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (boed), which exceeded the output of OPEC heavyweight Iraq. The nation was even a net exporter of energy. However, the current oil and gas production in the UK stands at around 1.3 million boed. According to the NSTA, this production is projected to decline significantly to less than 200,000 boed by 2050. It’s crucial to note that receiving an exploration license doesn’t guarantee the development of a producing field.

This development reflects the challenges the UK faces as it balances its energy and environmental objectives. While the government aims to reduce carbon emissions and transition to cleaner energy sources to meet its net-zero target by 2050, it also recognizes the importance of its domestic oil and gas industry for energy security, employment, and economic growth. As such, striking the right balance between these seemingly conflicting goals remains a complex and contentious issue. It will be important to monitor how the situation evolves, especially in light of ongoing legal challenges from environmental groups.

Writing by Moe Khaled; Editing by Sarah White