NSTA fines Neo Energy for North Sea methane venting

  • Market: Emissions, Natural gas
  • 18/04/24

UK offshore regulator the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) has fined UK upstream firm Neo Energy £100,000 for breaching its methane venting permit at North Sea fields.

The company emitted 1,200t of methane in excess of its permit from the Donan, Lochranza and Balloch fields in the first nine months of 2022. Neo had permission to vent 378t of methane from installations at these fields in that year, but incorrectly assigned volumes vented through unlit flares to its flaring consent, the NSTA found.

Neo showed a "lack of oversight" by failing to detect the licence breach for seven months, NSTA said. The company reached its annual limit by 21 March 2022, but continued venting without authorisation until October 2022.

The company said it did not update its flare and vent allocation process to reflect NSTA guidance updated in 2021, and as such was still assigning its flaring and venting according to previous guidance.

Neo becomes the fourth company to be fined by the NSTA over breaches relating to flaring and venting consents. The regulator in 2022 sanctioned Equinor and EnQuest and last year fined Spanish utility Repsol for consent breaches. The four companies have been fined a total of £475,000 for the breaches. And the regulator in February had four more investigations under way for breaches of vent consents.

Neo Energy's fine is equivalent to £2.98/t of CO2e emitted, assuming a global warming potential of methane that is 28 times that of CO2 on a 100-year time scale, compared with a UK emissions trading system price of £34.40/t of CO2e on 17 April.

The UK offshore industry targets a 50pc reduction in production emissions of greenhouse gases by 2030, from a 2018 baseline. And it intends to end all routine venting and flaring by that year. The regulator last year warned that "further, sustained action" would be needed to reach the 2030 emissions reduction goal. Methane emissions from offshore gas fell in recent years, to 1mn t in 2022 from 1.6mn t in 2018, according to NSTA data. Roughly half of methane emissions in the sector in recent years has been produced by venting, while flaring makes up about a quarter of the emissions.

The UK government is a member of the Global Methane Pledge group of countries that aims to reduce methane emissions by 30pc by 2030 from a 2020 baseline.


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