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expert reaction to government plans for new annual system for awarding oil and gas licences

Scientists react to new government plans for awarding oil and gas licences. 


Prof Sam Fankhauser, Professor of Climate Economics and Policy at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford, said:

“Under Britain’s statutory carbon budgets, any additional emissions that come out of the North Sea will have to be saved elsewhere in the economy, and will impose a cost there. The only honest ‘net zero test’ would be to require license holders to remove an equivalent amount of carbon from the atmosphere.”


Prof Jon Gluyas, Ørsted/Ikon Chair in Geoenergy, Carbon Capture & Storage at Durham University, said:

“Will so called ‘net zero’ tests for new oil and gas exploration licences make any difference?  Alas it is highly unlikely they will do so. 

“By opting to offer licences to find more fossil fuels, the UK government has blown a big hole in its avowed climate leadership and this declaration is unlikely to cut it with other governments who might have looked to the UK for leadership.  More importantly, in terms of climate change mitigation, meeting such a net zero challenge will be fraught in terms of measurement, monitoring and verification (MMV).  Do we start when the licence is awarded?  If so this equates to a MMV process which could last for 50+ years on individual licences where no system yet exists. 

“Sure it is easy enough to calculate net greenhouse gas releases associated with the initial study period, process of data acquisition (including seismic surveys) and possibly all the way up through the drilling and subsequent development campaigns and even on production things like flaring and consumption of gas for power can be reduced to zero or mitigated.  But once the oil and gas are sold, do the commitments by the producing consortia continue to the end users?  And if so how are the end uses monitored and ultimately how will that be made net zero. 

“Planting more trees won’t work as a mitigation.  There are ways of making oil and gas production properly net zero and still boosting and securing UK energy supplies1 but to do so will require committed investment from government ahead of any revenues which might be delivered in decades to come from oil and gas exploration.”


1 as shown in this award-winning paper


Declared interests

Prof Fankhauser is a former member of the CCC (2008-16)

Prof Gluyas:

  • paid employment or self-employment
    • I am employed by Durham University and consult on energy transition matters and projects via a variety of other commercial organisations
  • grant funding
    • I do not have grant funding in this area
  • voluntary appointments
    • I have just stepped down as the president of the Geothermal Energy Advancement Association – an advocacy group
  • memberships of relevant professional bodies/ charities/ voluntary organisations/ lobbying organisations. 
    • I am a founder of the soon to be announced National Geothermal Centre.  It is not funded by the petroleum industry nor by central government.
  • decision-making or advisory positions
    • none
  • close personal or professional relationships
    • none
  • other financial interest, both personal and institutional / membership organisations
    • none

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