The UK Government has awarded a subsidiary of EnQuest a new licence to drill for oil and gas in the North Sea despite the company having been fined for illegal gas flaring as recently as 2022. 

EnQuest Heather, a subsidiary of EnQuest, was granted the drilling licence as part of a new tranche of licence awards from the UK Government earlier this week.

However, environmental campaigners have criticised the move, noting that EnQuest was fined £150,000 ($191,348) in 2022 by the North Sea Transition Authority for knowingly breaching gas flaring limits. EnQuest was fined for flaring an excess 262 tonnes of gas at the Magnus Field between 30 November and 1 December 2021. 

Critics have also raised a conflict of interest between EnQuest and the UK’s ruling Conservative Party after it was revealed that EnQuest CEO Amjad Bseisu has donated a total of £480,721 to the party since 2013, comprising both cash donations and contributions in kind.  

This is not the first controversy surrounding recent UK oil licences. In early January, Conservative minister Chris Skidmore, who served as Energy Minister in 2019, resigned over the government’s plan to enable further licensing.  

Further controversy also surrounded comments made by Amanda Solloway MP in Parliament indicating that new oil and gas production may not be guaranteed to be used in the UK, despite the main justification for new licences being that they will boost the UK’s energy security. 

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By GlobalData

Greenpeace UK’s senior climate campaigner, Philip Evans, said: “You’d be forgiven for thinking that the Tory party might have an agenda when dishing out these new oil and gas licences. And since more oil and gas will only intensify the climate crisis, destroy lives and livelihoods around the world, and won’t even lower bills or make the UK more energy secure, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the government maybe doesn’t have our best interests at heart.

“But when those who are awarded the licences have a track record of reckless and polluting behaviour like breaching flaring rules, all while bankrolling the Conservative government, of course eyebrows are going to be raised.”