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Energy Act 2008

Summary and Background

13.In 2004, the UK was virtually self-sufficient in the production of natural gas for heating, electricity and business processes. However, gas production from the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) is declining and it is expected that the UK will be reliant on imported gas to meet well over half of demand by 2020. Without sufficient and timely new storage and import infrastructure, there will be increased risks of a tight gas supply demand balance in the UK in the future. This could result in high UK gas prices during periods of peak demand and a higher risk of involuntary interruptions.

14.Companies have already responded to declining UK gas production by investing in new gas storage and import infrastructure. However, as the UK’s production declines, additional investment will be needed in gas infrastructure. Companies investing in the UK have sought a clear and stable regulatory framework to reduce the uncertainty, delays and costs associated with the UK’s consenting processes.

15.The UK’s current legislative regime offshore was chiefly designed for licensing oil and gas production. It therefore does not easily lend itself to the types of gas supply projects that the UK will need to come on-stream as indigenous production of natural gas declines.

16.As a result, there is no single piece of legislation that explicitly covers offshore gas supply activities. Consents have to be sought under a number of pieces of legislation, creating complexity and uncertainty for the investor. Developers may require consents under some or all of the following pieces of existing legislation (this list may not be exhaustive):

  • The Petroleum Act 1998

  • The Food and Environment Protection Act 1985

  • The Coast Protection Act 1949

  • The Transport and Works Act 1992.

17.This Part of the Act creates a new regulatory framework specifically designed for offshore gas storage and Liquefied Natural Gas unloading projects. The regime is intended to simplify the consenting process, reduce the administrative burdens on developers and create certainty over the legal operation and construction of new facilities. The aim is to encourage timely investment in offshore gas supply infrastructure and to contribute to security of supply in the longer term.

18.As part of simplifying the consenting processes for offshore gas storage and Liquefied Natural Gas unloading projects, the proposals in this Act will disapply the requirement on developers to apply separately for a licence under the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 (c.48) to inject gas into the seabed, except where functions under that Act are exercised by the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. Sections 21, 23 and 24 of the Petroleum Act 1987 provide for the automatic establishment of safety zones around oil and gas installations and set out offences and the applicable penalties in connection with such safety zones. Paragraph 4 of Schedule 1 to this Act extends those provisions to installations used for offshore gas storage and Liquefied Natural Gas unloading projects.

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