Gas storage and unloading

The North Sea Transition Authority (the “NSTA”), pursuant to the Energy Act 2008 (the “Act”) is the licensing authority for offshore gas storage and offshore gas unloading. Pursuant to the Act, a licence issued by the NSTA is required for the following activities:

  • the use of a controlled place for the unloading of gas to an installation or pipeline (subject to certain exceptions);
  • the use of a controlled place for the storage of gas;
  • the conversion of any natural feature in a controlled place for the purpose of storing gas;
  • the recovery of gas stored in a controlled place;
  • the exploration of a controlled place with a view to, or in connection with, the carrying on of activities above;
  • the establishment or maintenance in a controlled place of an installation for the purposes of the activities above.

In this context, a “controlled place” means a place in, under or over – (i) the territorial sea or (ii) waters in a Gas Importation and Storage Zone (within the meaning of section 1(5) of the Act).

If you wish to apply for a licence for any of the above activities, please contact the NSTA at approvals@nstauthority.co.uk who will provide advice on a “case-by-case” basis on licence application requirements.

If a licence is granted for any of the above activities (except under (a)), the model clauses that will be incorporated into a licence can be found here: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2009/2813/contents/made

As well as a licence for any of the above activities, a Crown lease issued by The Crown Estate (“TCE”) or Crown Estate Scotland (“CES”), as appropriate, is also required. If applying to the NSTA for a licence, you should contact TCE/CES (as appropriate) at the earliest opportunity.

You will also be required to submit supporting environmental information to the Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment and Decommissioning (“OPRED”) at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (“BEIS”). To discuss requirements, OPRED can be contacted at bst@beis.gov.uk.

Operatorship

If a licence is granted, under the model clauses incorporated into the licence, the NSTA must approve the appointment of an operator. Approval relates only to an operator's competence and does not confer any permission to carry out activities such as drilling, seismic surveys, or gas unloading or storage developments. The approval is specific to the licence under which it is given, and each application is considered on its own merits.