Annual Consents Exercise
This page contains information regarding the Annual Consents Exercise (“ACE”) in the following sections:
All production, flaring and venting of gas, whether onshore or from terminals or from the UKCS requires consent from the NSTA.
The Annual Consents Exercise (“ACE”) provides an efficient framework:
- to ensure that fields and terminals have the requisite consents in place; and
- where the NSTA can set parameters to enable operators to meet regulatory obligations, and other commitments such as the North Sea Transition Deal.
Typically, ACE processes around 300 applications each year. Applications are subject to review by the NSTA to ensure they are compliant with, among other things:
- The key elements of the Central Obligation of the Strategy – including to maximise economic recovery and reduce as far as reasonably practicable in the circumstances greenhouse gas emissions from sources such as flaring and venting.
- The BEIS Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations (2020), in particular the approval by the Secretary of State (“SoS”) of project activity as defined under the EIA Regulations.
- Industry commitments under the North Sea Transition Deal (“NSTD”). Industry has committed to eliminate routine flaring and to reduce overall emissions of greenhouse gases by 50% by 2030.
In order to allow the NSTA to complete its consideration of the applications, the following dates have been set for their submission to the NSTA:
Date Required Action 31 August 2022 Submission of new Production Consent applications for consents that expire on 31 December 2022. 30 September 2022 Submission of new Flare and Vent Consent applications for consents that expire on 31 December 2022.
If you are unable to meet any of the above deadlines, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for the attention of the NSTA Consents & Authorisations Manager as soon as possible before the relevant deadline, setting out background and reasons for the delay.
Applications for production, flare and vent consents are submitted to the NSTA via the UK Energy Portal system - with the exception of consents for terminals, which are to be submitted by email (email@example.com).
Further details, support and guidance regarding the application process is set out below.
Flaring and Venting Guidance and the expectations of SE11: Net Zero
With regard to activity relating to offshore fields and supporting onshore terminals, the NSTA has set out Flaring and Venting Guidance (“Guidance”) which reflects the inclusion of a range of new net zero obligations in the OGA Strategy (“Strategy”).
For example, the Central Obligation of the Strategy requires, amongst other things, that relevant persons, in taking steps necessary to that the maximum value of economically recoverable petroleum is recovered from the strata beneath relevant UK waters, take appropriate steps to assist the Secretary of State in meeting the net zero target including by reducing, as far as reasonable in the circumstances, greenhouse gas emissions from sources such as flaring and venting.
The Supporting Obligation in the Strategy regarding Collaboration also requires that relevant persons must co-operate with the NSTA.
The Guidance sets out that the NSTA will drive for reductions in flaring and venting and associated emissions via:
- Principles: the principles that the NSTA expects industry to follow in relation to flaring and venting
- Regulatory approach: the NSTA will use its consenting regime to drive continuous reduction, and where possible, elimination of flaring and venting
- Stewardship: the NSTA will engage with operators regularly to encourage continued reductions in flaring and venting as part of Flaring and Venting Management Plans and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Action Plans (as described in Net Zero Stewardship Expectation 11), through short term operational optimisation as well as longer term investment plans to minimise or, where possible, eliminate the practice of flaring and venting
- Data: supported by updated industry reporting requirements, benchmarking of flaring and venting data, including through the NSTA’s annual flaring and venting benchmarking report and the monthly flaring and venting data published through the NSTA Open Data Portal.
In making applications for new field consents, Operators are expected ensure submissions reflect the requirements of the Guidance and the expectations of SE11.
Failure to submit compliant applications by the requested deadlines, or to cooperate in a timely fashion with the NSTA’s review of the applications, may be regarded as a failure against the Petroleum-Related Requirement to act in accordance with the Strategy and may put at risk the timely approval of the consent.
Compliance with BEIS OPRED EMT Requirements – Application for Offshore Fields Only
In order to avoid a conflict between the requirements of the EIA Regulations and the approval of a field consent, any consents that include project activity as defined by the EIA Regulations must have SoS approval before the field consent may be approved. This requirement exists whether or not there is an increase in the level of consent requested.
It is therefore vital that Operators are able to give a clear answer (‘Yes’ or ‘No’) to the following question in the consent application process:
“Does the activity as described in the consent application constitute a project under the Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration, Production, Unloading and Storage (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2020?”
(i.e., does the activity, in particular, involve the execution of construction works, other installations or schemes, or other interventions in the natural surroundings and landscape, e.g., physical interventions in / alteration to the production installation, pipelines or wells)?
It is the responsibility of the Operator to ensure that the relevant environmental submissions are made in sufficient time. Operators are therefore encouraged to engage with the Environmental Management Team (EMT) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Access to the UK Energy System Portal
We encourage Operators to have a minimum of two working contacts on the UK Energy Portal who can submit applications and respond to any questions raised as part of the NSTA review. Should you require an account to be set up, you should follow the “Register for a portal account” link on the log in page.
For more detailed guidance on setting up specific access for applications and consents, please refer to the “Field Consents System User Guidance” in the Additional Resources section below.
Note that applications for the continuation of Production, Flaring and Venting in 2023 are to be submitted using the template for new applications - they cannot be processed as revisions to existing consents.
If your application is returned to you for withdrawal and you are requested to submit on a new application template, a further cost will be incurred.
Changes in Operator during the ACE
If an Operator is currently in the process of transferring Operatorship of a field during the period of the Annual Consents Exercise, the schedule above still applies to your applications.
Please note that the Field Consent applies to the field and remains valid once Operatorship has been transferred. If the new Operator wishes to have a Consent in their name, they should apply after this transfer has been completed and they will incur a fee.
Each year, NSTA receive a series of frequently asked questions and as such a document has been created to provide responses to these. Please ensure you have checked this document prior to making contact with NSTA.
UK Energy Portal Login: https://itportal.nstauthority.co.uk/eng/fox/nsta/NSTA_LOGIN/login/
Field Consents System User Guidance: https://www.nstauthority.co.uk/media/7646/field-consents-system-user-guidance-update-june-2021-final.docx
Charge Payable for Portal Consents: https://www.nstauthority.co.uk/regulatory-framework/legislative-context/charging-regime/
Production Consents and Field Development Plans Guidance: https://www.nstauthority.co.uk/licensing-consents/consents/production-consents/
BEIS OPRED Guidance relating to revision and renewal of Field Consents: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/778899/OPRED_EIA_Guidance_2019_Revision_5_-_14Feb19.pdf
Guidance on Applications for Flaring and Venting Consents: https://www.nstauthority.co.uk/licensing-consents/consents/flaring-and-venting/
Webinar and Presentation material
On 30 June 2022, the NSTA gave the following presentation to industry on the Annual Consents Exercise 2023
The below ACE 2023 video Overview for Industry contains key information on changes, deadlines and interdependencies.
(Note that since recording the ‘how to’ sessions in 2021, and following dialogue with BEIS, the manner in which compliance with the EIA Regulations (2020) is addressed has changed. The requirement to consider increases in consented volumes has been dropped in favour of a single question which asks whether or not the consent includes a ‘Project’ as defined under the EIA Regulations. Please see the FAQ (‘Additional Resources’ section above) for further details of the change. The videos do not reflect this change.)
Here is a link to a video on how to complete a Vent consent application on the UK Energy Portal
Here is a link to a video on how to complete a Flare consent application on the UK Energy Portal; and
Here is a link to a video on how to complete a Production consent application on the UK Energy Portal.
NSTA Consents & Authorisations: email@example.com
UK Energy Portal: firstname.lastname@example.org