The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) has started benchmarking North Sea operators on their flaring and venting levels in a crackdown on offshore emissions.
The regulator said today that it was exploring “tougher measures” to eliminate unnecessary flaring or venting.
It recognised that some flaring and venting was unavoidable for safety and operational reasons, but insisted more could be done to reduce levels.
The OGA will “closely scrutinise” operator flaring and venting requests in existing production and in new field development plans.
According to the regulator, the volume of gas flared and vented in offshore upstream oil and gas production last year was equivalent to 3% of all the natural gas produced in 2019.
A total of 42 billion standard cubic feet of gas (bcf) was flared in 2019 from offshore facilities, down 4% reduction on 2018, the first annual reduction since 2014.
In addition, 7 bcf of gas was vented on the UKCS in 2019 from offshore facilities, a 34% year-on-year reduction.
Offshore flaring makes up 1% of total UK annual carbon dioxide emissions, while venting on the UKCS represents 1% of total UK annual methane emissions.
OGA strategy director Hedvig Ljungerud said: “The OGA is looking to take a robust stance on flaring and venting – through its consents, field development process and project stewardship.
“While it’s encouraging to see a fall in volumes flared and vented, we believe there are clear opportunities for industry to go further to advance cleaner production.
“Our benchmarking has already been proven to raise performance levels in other areas, such as production and decommissioning cost efficiency, enabling operators to learn from good examples set by others and allowing us to focus our attention and interventions in the right areas.”