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Oil and gas rigs in United Kingdom waters of the North Sea could be forced to convert over to green energy or low-carbon fuels, or either face closure or getting banned from opening new platforms, in an effort to reduce emissions, according to reports.

The Telegraph reported there are currently over 280 oil and gas platforms in UK waters, which produce about 3% of the total CO2 emitted by the country per year.

The same rigs, though, produce nearly half of the UK’s energy.

The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) has regulatory authority over the waters off the UK, and reportedly gave oil producers an ultimatum to either convert platforms to operate on low-carbon fuels or green electricity, or face closure.

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North Sea Gas Platform

A worker looks out onto the weather deck of the Armada gas condensate platform, operated by BG Group Plc, in the North Sea, off the coast of Aberdeen, U.K., on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015.  (Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The requirement is for all new rigs after 2030 to be electrified completely from the start, while new development ahead of that must be designed to run on electricity.

Older platforms dating back to the 1970s and 1980s could cost a heap for electric conversion. Some platforms may have to connect with land power or build wind farms near each platform for an electricity connection.

Documents posted to the NSTA’s website point towards the end of flaring or burning off methane by offshore platform operators.

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Wind turbines in the North Sea

Wind turbines are seen in the North Sea near Scheveningen, Netherlands, on Aug. 25, 2022. (Reuters/Piroschka van de Wouw)

Methane, which is a greenhouse gas like CO2, is nearly 80 times more harmful than CO2. Flaring releases both unburned methane and CO2 into the atmosphere.

The NSTA regulates flaring and venting under the Energy Act of 1976, which was amended in 2016, and the Petroleum Act of 1998. The NSTA also aims to ultimately phase out flaring and venting by 2030.

“While progress has been made, with industry flaring volumes having decreased by around 50pc since 2018, and some flaring is unavoidable for safety and operational reasons, the NSTA has been clear that more must be done to prevent the wasteful flaring of gas and expects the reductions to continue,” the NSTA wrote, adding that the new plan will aid those efforts. “This plan places electrification and low carbon power at the heart of emissions reductions.

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“It makes it clear that where the NSTA considers electrification reasonable, but it has not been done, there should be no expectation that the NSTA will approve field development plans that give access to future hydrocarbon resources in that asset,” it added.

Still, the agency plans to avoid unintended consequences while also applying the plan reasonably.

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