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UK’s North Sea Fossil Fuel Drilling Plans

Context:

The UK Prime Minister has approved further fossil fuel drilling in the North Sea to bolster energy self-sufficiency, prompting concerns about climate commitments. The North Sea Transition Authority (NTSA) is supervising the 33rd licensing round for offshore oil and gas, raising discussions on the nation’s environmental goals.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

Evolution of North Sea Drilling

Evolution of North Sea Drilling

North Sea
  • The North Sea is situated in northwest Europe, bordered by multiple countries including Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and the United Kingdom.
  • It connects to the Atlantic through the English Channel and the Strait of Dover.
Historical Milestones
  • The 1958 Geneva Convention on the Continental Shelf established nations’ rights over continental shelves, paving the way for North Sea exploration.
  • The UK’s Continental Shelf Act of 1964 solidified its jurisdiction over offshore oil and gas resources.
  • British Petroleum (BP) obtained the first UK North Sea exploration license in 1964, leading to the discovery of natural gas in 1965.
  • The BP-operated Sea Gem rig collapse in 1965 posed a setback.
  • Commercial oil was found in the Forties Field in 1970, triggering increased exploration.
Current UK Perspective
  • Despite aiming for Net-Zero Emissions by 2050, the UK anticipates a quarter of its energy requirement to still rely on oil and gas.
  • The UK emphasizes using domestic resources to meet energy needs rather than depending on foreign supplies.
  • Concerns arise regarding the UK’s commitment to climate targets, with doubts on its preparedness for climate change per the Climate Change Committee’s report.

Environmental Concerns of Offshore Drilling

Oil Spills:

  • Oil spills from drilling pose severe threats to marine ecosystems and wildlife.
  • Birds, marine mammals, and fish can be coated with oil, causing suffocation and impaired functioning.

Habitat Disruption:

  • The presence of drilling structures and pipelines disrupts marine habitats.
  • Noise and vibrations from drilling operations can disturb marine life, affecting communication, navigation, and breeding.

Habitat Damage:

  • Construction of drilling infrastructure harms underwater habitats like coral reefs and seagrass beds.
  • These habitats are crucial for breeding and feeding marine species.

Climate Impact:

  • Burning fossil fuels extracted from offshore drilling contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.
  • This worsens global climate change, leading to sea-level rise and ocean warming.

Resource Depletion:

  • Intensive drilling depletes oil and gas reserves, leading to pressure to explore ecologically sensitive regions.

Ocean Acidification:

  • CO2 released from fossil fuel burning is absorbed by oceans, causing ocean acidification.
  • This harms marine life, especially organisms with calcium carbonate shells, like coral reefs and shellfish.

-Source: The Hindu

 


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