There are various potential outcomes the NSTA can pursue after conducting an Initial Assessment. A summary of the options can be found below:
- The NSTA may conclude that there is sufficient initial evidence which merits a full Investigation into a potential failure to comply with a petroleum-related requirement. In such cases, the NSTA is likely to handle the matter in accordance with its sanction procedure.
Commitments in lieu of further action
- Parties subject to an Initial Assessment may offer the NSTA commitments in lieu. The commitments in lieu would need to be devised and proposed by the parties and would need to meet the NSTA’s MER UK concerns.
- Upon receipt of an offer of commitments in lieu from one or more of the parties involved (for example, a proposed amendment to a licence by Deed), the NSTA may conclude that it is appropriate either to accept or to reject the proposed commitments in lieu prior to finalising the outcome of the Initial Assessment. Such proposed commitments in lieu will vary in nature, but in all cases the intention should be to provide a clear and comprehensive solution to the NSTA’s concerns
- Where the party confirms in writing that it has failed to comply with a petroleum-related requirement, the NSTA may request one or more of the parties to compile, submit and implement a compliance plan. The compliance plan should assist the business in finding an effective means of ensuring compliance with its regulatory obligations. The NSTA expects businesses to adhere to their own compliance plans and may initiate an investigation in the event of further instances of non-compliance
- The NSTA may require one or more of the parties to compile an Area Plan which would describe how economic recovery of oil and gas should be maximised in a particular geographical area of the UKCS, based on the analysis of evidence. For more information reference should be made to the NSTA’s separate guidance document ‘Guidance on the development and use of area plans.’
- The NSTA may conclude as part of its consideration of a dispute that it is necessary to require the parties to undertake mediation, overseen either by a separate team within the NSTA or by an independent mediation facilitator paid for by each of the parties.
- Where this mediation process is adopted as a preferred solution by the NSTA, the parties will be expected to co-operate positively with the NSTA or the independent mediation facilitator
No further action
- The NSTA may conclude that there is no further action to be taken. This may happen where, for example, during the NSTA’s Initial Assessment the parties have taken material steps to resolve the matter such that no further action is necessary. If the NSTA decides not to progress a matter following a prioritisation assessment, it may send letters to the parties advising among other things that although the NSTA is not currently minded to pursue the matter at this stage it may do so in future if the NSTA receives further evidence or if its prioritisation assessment changes
Other course of action
- The NSTA notes that any action recommended by the Initial Assessment process may not solely result in the use of the actions listed above and, should an alternative course of action be deemed more appropriate, the NSTA reserves the right to pursue that option