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OGA on track to become executive agency

Andy Samuel, OGA chief executive
Andy Samuel, OGA chief executive

The UK’s new energy industry regulator, the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA), yesterday insisted it was ready to become an executive agency on April 1 as planned.

Oil and Gas UK (OGUK) chief executive Malcolm Webb had earlier suggested the fledgling watchdog had decided to delay the move, which will let it start fulfilling its role formally, for some months.

The establishment of a strong and well-funded regulator was one of the recommendations made in last year’s Wood Review, which made a series of proposals aimed at maximising the recovery of UK fossil fuels.

Andy Samuel, former head of oil major BG Group, took up the role of chief executive in January, with top civil servant Sir Patrick Brown later chosen by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to chair its board.

OGA has already filled three out of six director positions and is expected to make the jump to become an executive agency of DECC, giving it control of its own budget, on Wednesday.

But Mr Webb cast doubt on the transition yesterday, saying: “I think there was a plan at one stage to have a switch over on April 1 and to have the OGA up and running.

“As I understand it Andy (Samuel) has quite sensibly decided that’s not the case and that he’s not going to take over the running until he’s got his team together – and I think that’s an absolutely excellent decision to have made.”

However, an OGA spokesman later denied there would be a hold-up in making the transition to an executive agency, but added it would take a few months to get staff in place to “deliver on plans and priorities”.

He added: “The OGA will categorically become an executive agency on the April 1, next Wednesday.

“Although it will become an executive agency on that day, it will take a little bit longer to fully staff the team. We don’t have an instant team waiting in the wings.”

The spokesman said there had been a huge amount of interest in the remaining senior positions at OGA, which is interviewing 150 people for recently advertised roles.

He said OGA was likely to finish up with a total headcount of about 150 to 180 staff, adding: “By the end of year it should have vast majority of that team populated, which is probably what Malcolm was referring to.

“There’s no debate at all about us becoming an executive agency next Wednesday. It’s there, it’s in place, it’s on track and it will happen.”

Mr Webb’s comments came at an inaugural oil and gas industry conference hosted by Scottish law firm Burness Paull at the Chester Hotel in Aberdeen.

The conference, titled The Future Shape of the UKCS (UK continental shelf), featured presentations from seven industry experts, including Royal Bank of Scotland chief economist Stephen Boyle, Andrew Reid, managing director of market researcher Douglas-Westwood, and John Pearson, group president of Amec Foster Wheeler.

It was aimed at addressing issues such as the causes of the drop in oil prices since last summer, as well as how the industry is reacting to the problem.

Burness Paull, which has had oil and gas clients for the past 40 years, funded the event and plans to make it a regular fixture in the industry’s calendar.

The conference fell on the same day that oil and gas giant Shell announced it was sacking 250 staff and bringing in a three on, three off rota for offshore workers.

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