In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic which first affected the UK in early 2020, and continues to have a significant impact, the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) announced on 24 March 2020 that it would seek to ease the pressures on industry by taking a pragmatic approach to compliance where it could.
To ensure fairness and consistency, the OGA signalled at the time that it would take a flexible approach to considering amendments to licence timelines.
As a result, the OGA engaged with many Operators/Licensees in a timely and evidence-based manner on specific licence requests, offering flexibility where possible. The OGA also deprioritised stewardship reviews, only holding such reviews with operators in relation to regulatory or materially significant matters.
The OGA committed to review this approach to ensure continued fitness for purpose given the dynamic nature of COVID-19’s impact on the oil and gas industry, and the wider economy.
The UK oil and gas industry responded well to the COVID-19 pandemic, and oil/gas price reductions at the time. In light of the industry developing practices and procedures to manage COVID-19, stabilisation of commodity prices, and resulting stabilisation of operators’ business plans, late in 2020 the OGA undertook a review of its approach. This review was concluded at the end of 2020.
In the interests of ensuring that vital, time-critical, activity is maintained in the UKCS to safeguard both the energy supply we know is needed for the foreseeable future and the thousands of jobs which help deliver it, the OGA will now adopt a blended approach to licence management by incorporating what the OGA has learned during 2020 with the pre-COVID-19 OGA business as usual approach.
Where supported with clear evidence, flexibility may still be available in relation to licence timelines that are affected by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis as the UK has only recently entered a new “lockdown” period.
The OGA will continue to keep its approach to considering amendments to licence timelines under review and would remind Operators/Licensees to approach the OGA early with regard to any request to amend a licence timeline, and in compliance with the timelines specified in the licence.