LONDON 19th January 2024 - Global Witness analysis reveals that despite a two-decade sale of nearly 1,700 new oil and gas licenses, the UK’s energy security has only worsened as exports have ballooned and oil production plummeted.

These findings show the futility of the Government’s Petroleum Licensing Bill, which would authorize annual license awards in the name of “energy security” and will be debated by Parliament on 22 January.

Key Findings

  • Licensing Blitz: Between 2004 and 2023, the UK awarded 1,680 new licenses to look for or produce oil and gas.
  • Export Explosion: Despite this, between 2004 and 2022, UK oil exports surged from 68% to 81%.
  • Production Plunge: Compounding the problem, the UK is exporting a larger share of a decreasingly small pot, with UK oil production dropping 60% between 2004 and 2022.

Ministers have repeatedly claimed that developing oilfields annually would improve UK energy security and help UK consumers, overriding concerns from climate experts and their advisers.

In response to a recent Parliamentary Question, Minister Amanda Solloway MP suggested that export trends could continue. She stated, "It is not desirable," she said, "to force private companies to 'allocate' oil and gas produced in the North Sea for domestic use."

Last week, the publisher of the UK Government's Net Zero Review, Chris Skidmore MP, resigned. He cited his inability to support the Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill.

COP26 President Alok Sharma MP accused the Prime Minister of "chopping and changing" on climate policy. These accusations have put extra pressure on the Government's Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill.

The debate will likely be held around 3:30 pm on January 22nd, with a vote happening that evening.

 Jonathan Noronha-Gant, Global Witness, Senior Campaigner, said:

"The new annual licensing law will do nothing for UK energy security and will allow private companies to send more expensive, polluting fossil fuels abroad.

“This unpopular policy will only prolong the current energy problems we face. People want long-term solutions to help bring down their bills and fight the emissions damaging the climate. New oil fields will only line the pockets of rich fossil fuel firms; they won't help the millions of Brits struggling to pay their bills."