New gas pockets off East Anglia set to be opened up

IOG-Noble Hans Deul rig drilling for gas at the Blyth platform in the Southern North Sea

IOG-Noble Hans Deul rig drilling for gas at the Blyth platform in the Southern North Sea - Credit: IOG

Natural gas from the Southern North Sea is set to power the region through the winter months as new resources found beneath the sea bed are exploited.

Industry body Oil and Gas UK (OGUK) says finds off the coasts of East Anglia, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire and off northern Scotland will be needed if the UK is to maintain its own supplies of CO2-emitting natural gas as it transitions to carbon-zero technologies.

Green campaigners want the UK to end its reliance on carbon-emitting fuels sooner rather than later, but the sector argues that as the UK relies on oil and gas for 73% of its total energy, the discovery of new resources beneath the North Sea will be good news for the nation’s energy security and the economy – and mean fewer carbon fuel imports.

Graphic showing where the UK's natural gas sources are

How does the UK get its gas? - Credit: OGUK

Global gas prices hit record highs this year – and consumers are facing an average £139 price hike this winter with more rises inevitable in 2022, OGUK said. More than 23m households are connected to the gas grid.

IOG, which operates 20 miles off the Lincolnshire and Norfolk coasts, hopes to send the first gas from its Elgood and Blythe projects into Norfolk’s Bacton terminal very early in the New Year. 

The London-based firm plans to drill a third well into the Southwark Field in early 2022. It has joined forces with CalEnergy Resources, a subsidiary of US billionaire Warren Buffett’s giant Berkshire Hathaway fund.

Fellow North Sea gas-focused explorer Deltic Energy has high hopes its drills will find gas reserves in 2022 after promising results from recent seismic surveys in the Southern North Sea off the coast around Hull, Newcastle and Lincolnshire. Its partners include Anglo-Dutch company Shell.

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The Southern North Sea was the home of the UK gas industry in the 1970s but reserves became depleted. However, new finds are still being made. 

A map showing IOG's Blythe, Elgood and Southwark gas fields

A map showing IOG's Blythe, Elgood and Southwark gas fields - Credit: IOG

Meanwhile, London and Aberdeen-based Serica, has just landed the first gas supply from its Columbus development, 200km east of Inverness.

OGUK supply chain and operations boss Katy Heidenreich said: “The best way for the UK to meet its carbon reduction goals is to maintain its own supplies of oil and gas so it’s good news that these fields have started delivering. It means less imports and that’s good for jobs and the UK economy. The emissions generated by producing and processing gas and oil in the UK are also generally lower which is an extra benefit.”

Deltic Energy chief executive Graham Swindells said: “We are delighted with the progress we have made this year and excited by what next year will bring. We are a relatively small, exploration and production-focused company which has punched way above its weight, to secure partners like Shell and Cairn. Most people recognise that domestic oil and gas production is good for jobs, the economy, and the environment. We remain committed as a company and an industry to deliver the net-zero carbon plan and we have a key role to play, as the government says. There are still huge opportunities in the North Sea.

“Earlier this year our industry signed a landmark agreement with the government, the North Sea Transition Deal, under which we promised secure supplies of energy alongside a move to ever-lower carbon emissions. We are delivering on that promise.”

IOG-Noble Hans Deul gas rig over the Blythe platform in the Southern North Sea

IOG-Noble Hans Deul gas rig over the Blythe platform in the Southern North Sea - Credit: IOG