The Oil and Gas Authority’s “robust approach” to regulating North Sea industry is paying off, its chief executive said.
Andy Samuel said the organisation was progressing with a “formal” case that could result in the regulator wielding its powers of sanction.
Mr Samuel also said the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) was taking a firmer stance on licence ownership.
Sanctions enforceable by the OGA are graded from private warnings and public enforcement notices, all the way up to financial penalties capped at £1 million, operator removals and licence revocations.
Asked whether the OGA was close to implementing sanctions, Mr Samuel said: “We’ve now got our first case that’s in the formal investigation stage. Previously we had a number of cases in the inquiry stage so we’ve gone further. We will see how that plays out.”
Mr Samuel said the OGA recently made a number of “robust determinations” in which it refused to extend certain licences.
He said operators could hold onto licences if they have a “clear plan”, but warned his team would be robustly tracking progress to make sure milestones are met.
Mr Samuel said: “We are seeing good results from interventions made where we’ve seen acreage effectively being held by companies as an option but with no real progress.
“We have various licensing powers that we are using to good effect. This is part of the story we see unfolding of assets changing hands.”
Mr Samuel said the OGA’s efforts were “all in the service of getting new projects under way”.
He said: “We’re very pleased four have already been sanctioned this year. Our team is tracking about 50 in total, which is a huge prize.
“They won’t all be done this year but they’re in the pipeline near-term. It will be exciting if we can get a good chunk of them over the line.
“It helps being robust, frankly.”