Shell, BP, Total UK and Centrica are just a few of the 15 oil and gas companies courted by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to help implement the Wood Review recommendation to maximise the economic recovery of UK petroleum (MER UK) – a policy which is now law under the Infrastructure Act.
Under the Infrastructure Act this policy introduces a new legal obligation on current and future governments to extract every last drop of oil and gas. This is in direct conflict with Britain’s target to reduce emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
According to the agenda for a June 2014 PILOT meeting between government and industry obtained by DeSmog UK, the companies were consulted on how to implement the MER UK recommendation one month prior to the government issuing its official statement on implementing the Wood Review.
The document shows that executives from Shell, BP, Centrica and Total UK all lead workgroups on various topics, along with Abu Dhabi’s national energy company TAQA Bratani, and the North Sea branch of Apache, a Texan energy company. They were all asked to align with the Wood Review conclusions.
Chevron, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhilips, Nexen, Cairn Energy, BG, Premier Oil and EnQuest also attended the June PILOT meeting – which cost a total of £2,020.80 to host – along with industry representatives Oil & Gas UK. Talisman was invited but did not attend the meeting.
PILOT is a government and industry taskforce that meets twice a year and is chaired by the secretary of state for energy and climate change. At the time, this was Ed Davey, who has widely been seen to be strong on climate change; the position has now been taken over by Amber Rudd.
Originally named the Oil and Gas Taskforce, the group works on “a range of significant issues affecting the prosperity and viability of the UK basin.”
As the PILOT website reads, it is “vital” to maximise the recovery of the UK’s remaining oil and gas resources. Minutes for the PILOT meetings published online show that these 15 companies are regular attendees.
However, the document released under a Freedom of Information request – by Request Initiative on behalf of DeSmog UK – now reveals the degree of influence these energy giants had in specifically developing the strategy behind the Wood–inspired clause included in the Infrastructure Act.
In March, we reported that the man behind the Wood Review, Sir Ian Wood, is none other than the billionaire owner of the Wood Group, which provides service to the oil and gas industry. No one outside government and industry was consulted on his report, which was published in February 2014.
Collaboration is Key
As the agenda for the June 19 meeting shows, Simon Toole, currently head of exploration, licensing and development at the Oil and Gas Authority, chaired a session titled “Bringing MER UK to life”.
Stephen Speed, director of energy development at DECC, followed with a discussion on the conclusions reached during a PILOT dinner held the previous night regarding “DECC/Industry Alignment”. He asked those at the meeting “How would industry like to be engaged during the implementation process?”
Collaboration appears to be a key theme of the meeting. In his opening remarks, Ed Davey, then DECC secretary of state, said: “There are substantial rewards to be achieved but only if we create the right environment. It is therefore vital that both Government and Industry continue to work closely together.”
The minutes show that Davey also acknowledged that it was “important Government did not stall and clear signals of direction of travel must be given to industry to maintain investment confidence.”
The PILOT meeting heard from four industry-led workgroups on “how they are going to evolve and align with the aims of the Report”. All groups had been active for about one year prior to this.
Pete Jones, managing director of TAQA Bratani, led the “Area Rejuvenation (Infrastructure)” workgroup; this contains three sub-groups focused on the different areas of the North Sea. The aim is to develop coordinated plans for exploration, development, and infrastructure that “would result in additional oil and gas recovery.”
The agenda explains that “collaborative working on this scale is new for industry and it has taken time to find a modus operandi which does not violate Competition Law.”
Glen Cayley of Shell led the Central North Sea sub-group with Shell and Centrica jointly leading the Southern North Sea sub-group, and Jones heading the Northern North Sea sub-group.
Nick Fretwell of Total UK chaired the Exploration Task Force workgroup along with Toole. The group aims to increase investment in, and the successful recovery of, oil and gas.
Here too the idea of collaboration was stressed: “A major challenge to the success of the Exploration Task Force is the willingness of the industry to collaborate on sharing its geological knowledge and understanding of the subsurface.”
The Enhanced Oil Recovery workgroup is led by Trevor Garlick, regional president of BP North Sea, and aims to improve the way in which oil is recovered at a “microscopic scale.”
Finally, Jim House, managing director of Apache North Sea, heads up the Production Efficiency work group. As the title suggests, the issue of improving efficiency of offshore operations is the group’s main goal.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons