The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) has launched its third sanctions investigation on North Sea companies of this year.
The regulator said it has gained “sufficient initial evidence” to suggest a firm has breached its field licence consents, prompting the inquiry.
It comes after a separate investigation last month saw the OGA fine BP £50,000 over a licence breach related to the Vorlich field in the North Sea.
Details of this new case are scant, but the OGA said there has been a possible breach of production consents for a field, which is contrary to the requirements for licences being granted.
The OGA will now gather and assess information, offer the company concerned the opportunity to make representations and then the regulator will decide on how it can be resolved.
It follows a Thematic Review into industry compliance published in October which, despite showing “very good and improving practice”, also identified need for improvement and warned of the potential for sanctions.
The OGA has a duty to regulate the industry and has powers to issue enforcement notices and financial penalties, and to revoke licences for clear or persistent breaches of the Maximising Economic Recovery (MER) UK strategy.
The regulator’s strategy now also relates to net zero targets, with the fear of excess flaring – which did not come to pass – playing a part in the decision to fine BP last month.
The Thematic Review followed a letter to licensees and infrastructure owners in June 2019 which said “too many issues (were) taking too long to resolve” and warned that “we will be progressively more proactive in using the OGA’s powers”.