Comment: North Sea oil and gas

Over the past decade, despite the new licences, the number of jobs supported by the oil and gas industry has more than halved.

Profile picture of Jess Ralston

By Jess Ralston

Last updated:

Commenting on proposed policies from the Conservatives and Labour towards the North Sea Jess Ralston, Head of Energy at the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said:

“North Sea oil and gas output has been falling for years and any new licences for exploration won’t stop that decline continuing and would at best make a marginal difference to production. North Sea wind farms, and renewables in general, on the other hand could make a really big difference to our energy security.

“Given the inexorable decline of the industry, North Sea workers need to see a proper plan to transfer out. Some experts suggest 90% of current oil and gas jobs could be found a new home in offshore renewables. Either way, the point is you need to accelerate renewables deployment to secure jobs and the UK’s energy independence.”

Key facts

  • Given this, 200,000 job losses could not result from a moratorium on new drilling. According to the North Sea Transition Authority’s forecasts, by 2030 UK gas production will be c.190TWh/yr or 55% below current levels, even with speculative ‘future discoveries’. Of this output in 2030, 15% (c.30TWh) would be affected by a moratorium on new licencing. Burning 30TWh of gas in power stations would generate around 15TWh of electricity, the same amount of power that could be produced every year by one large (2.7GW) windfarm.
  • Uplift analysis suggests that over the past decade, hundreds of new licences have been issued, yet to date they have produced just 16 days’ worth of gas. In addition, it estimates that new licensing, which Labour is set to introduce a moratorium on, will provide just 4 days’ worth of extra gas a year on average between now and 2050.
  • Analysis has shown that as the North Sea continues to decline, gas imports from foreign countries will rise, to the point where a household with a gas boiler and standard electricity demand could pay as much as £5,700 to foreign gas companies between 2024 and 2035, including £140 per year to Qatar.

For more information or for interview requests:

George Smeeton, Head of Communications, ECIU, Tel: +44 (0)7894 571 153, email: