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Detailed guide: Offshore Energy Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA): An overview of the SEA process

Overview

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is the process of appraisal through which environmental protection and sustainable development may be considered, and factored into national and local decisions regarding Government (and other) plans and programmes – such as oil and gas licensing rounds and other offshore energy developments, including renewables and gas and carbon dioxide storage.

The SEA process and legislative context

The SEA process aims to help inform ministerial decisions through consideration of the environmental implications of the outcome of a proposed plan/programme. The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) formerly DTI, BERR and DECC (the department), as the principal environmental regulator of the offshore oil and gas industry, has taken a proactive stance on the use of SEA as a means of striking a balance between promoting economic development of the UK’s offshore energy resources and effective environmental protection. Although the European Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive (Directive 2001/42/EC) was not incorporated into UK law until 2004 (The Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Regulations 2004, and equivalent Regulations of the devolved administrations), SEAs have been carried out since 1999 in accordance with its requirements.

The SEA Directive sets out the information to be included in the environmental report of the Strategic Environmental Assessment, namely:

  • An outline of the contents, main objectives of the plan or programme and relationship with other relevant plans and programmes.
  • The relevant aspects of the current state of the environment and the likely evolution thereof without implementation of the plan or programme.
  • The environmental characteristics of areas likely to be significantly affected.
  • Any existing environmental problems which are relevant to the plan or programme including, in particular, those relating to any areas of a particular environmental importance, such as areas designated pursuant to Directives 2009/147/EC and 92/43/EEC (the Birds and Habitats Directives).
  • The environmental protection objectives, established at international, Community or member state level, which are relevant to the plan or programme and the way those objectives and any environmental considerations have been taken into account during its preparation.
  • The likely significant effects on the environment, including issues such as biodiversity, population, human health, fauna, flora, soil, water, air, climatic factors, material assets, cultural heritage including architectural and archaeological heritage, landscape and the inter-relationship between the above factors.
  • The measures envisaged to prevent, reduce and, as fully as possible, offset any significant adverse effects on the environment of implementing the plan or programme.
  • An outline of the reasons for selecting the alternatives dealt with and a description of how the assessment was undertaken, including any difficulties (such as technical deficiencies or lack of know-how) encountered in compiling the required information.
  • A description of the measures envisaged concerning monitoring.
  • A non-technical summary of the information provided under the above headings.

These effects should include secondary, cumulative, synergistic, short, medium and long term, permanent and temporary, positive and negative effects.

The department undertook a sequence of oil and gas SEAs considering various areas of the UKCS (SEA areas 1-8), in addition to an SEA for Round 2 wind leasing. The more recent offshore energy SEAs (OESEA, OESEA2 and OESEA3) incorporated the entire UKCS (with the exception of Northern Ireland and Scottish territorial waters for renewable energy, and Scottish territorial waters for carbon dioxide transport and storage), for technologies including oil and gas exploration and production, gas storage and offloading including carbon dioxide transport and storage, and renewable energy (including wind, wave and tidal power). A summary of the areas covered by previous DECC SEAs, when they were undertaken and for which sectors, and an overview of each of the technologies covered by the latest DECC offshore energy plan/programme is provided in the documents below.

SEA Area Sectors covered Licensing/leasing round
SEA 1 The deep water area along the UK and Faroese boundary Oil & Gas 19th Round (2001)
SEA 2 The central spine of the North Sea which contains the majority of existing UK oil and gas fields Oil & Gas 20th Round (2002)
SEA 2 extension Outer Moray Firth Oil & Gas 20th Round (2002)
SEA 3 The remaining parts of the southern North Sea Oil & Gas 21st Round (2003)
R2 Three strategic regions off the coasts of England and Wales in relation to a second round of offshore wind leasing Offshore wind Round 2 (2003)
SEA 4 The offshore areas to the north and west of Shetland and Orkney Oil & Gas 22nd Round (2004)
SEA 5 Parts of the northern and central North Sea to the east of the Scottish mainland, Orkney and Shetland Oil & Gas 23rd Round (2005)
SEA 6 Parts of the Irish Sea Oil & Gas 24th Round (2006)
SEA 7 The offshore areas to the west of Scotland Oil & Gas 25th Round (2008)
OESEA UK offshore waters and territorial waters of England and Wales Oil & Gas, Offshore wind 26th Round/Round 3 (2009)
OESEA2 UK offshore waters and territorial waters of England and Wales Oil & Gas, Offshore wind, wave and tidal, gas and carbon dioxide storage 27th Round (2011)
28th Round (2014)
OESEA3 UK offshore waters and territorial waters of England and Wales Oil & Gas, Offshore wind, wave and tidal, gas and carbon dioxide storage 29th Round (2016)
Supplementary Round (2016)
30th Round (2017)
31st Round (2018)
31st Supplementary Round (2019)

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As these SEAs have been carried out, the process has evolved and been improved. The evolution and refinement of the process will continue. A required part of SEA is consultation with the public, environmental authorities and other bodies, together with such neighbouring states as may be potentially affected.

In conducting the SEA process, the Department is guided by the SEA Steering Group, composed of departmental representatives, conservation and other agencies, NGOs, industry representatives and independent experts. The diverse members’ role is to act as technical peers, guiding the selection of SEA methods and identifying the right information sources.

Completed studies relating to earlier SEAs are located on the British Geological Survey (BGS) SEA archive.

SEA Recommendations

A series of recommendations have been made in the previous offshore energy SEA Environmental Reports on SEA processes and conclusions, the natural and wider environment, and regulatory and other controls. A compilation of these recommendations and their current status (whether closed, in progress or still open) is available for download below.

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Offshore Energy SEA: the current SEA

The Department conducted a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of a draft plan/programme to enable future renewable leasing for offshore wind, wave and tidal devices and licensing/leasing for seaward oil and gas rounds, hydrocarbon and carbon dioxide gas storage - the plan/programme was adopted in July 2016. The renewable energy elements of the plan/programme cover parts of the UK Exclusive Economic Zone and the territorial waters of England and Wales (the Scottish Renewable Energy Zone and Scottish and Northern Irish waters within the 12 nautical mile territorial sea limit are not included in this part); for hydrocarbon gas and carbon dioxide storage it applies to the UK Exclusive Economic Zone and the territorial waters of England and Wales (with the exception of the territorial waters of Scotland for carbon dioxide storage); and for hydrocarbon exploration and production it applies to all UK waters.

The Environmental Report for OESEA3 has an indicative time horizon (i.e. period of currency) of 5 years. During this period, as with previous SEAs, the Department intends to maintain an active SEA research programme; identifying information gaps (some of which were outlined in the last set of SEA Recommendations), commissioning new research where appropriate, and promoting its wider dissemination through a series of research seminars and publications. This will also involve continued engagement with the SEA Steering Group and review of the information base for the SEA, including the environmental baseline, other relevant plans and programmes, and policy and regulation.

A review of the OESEA3 Environmental Report was undertaken in 2018 in the light of a range of new information covering leasing and licensing; new initiatives and the continued relevance of the plan/programme; the environmental baseline and the understanding of potential effects associated with the plan/programme. The SEA conclusions and recommendations were also reviewed in the context of this updated information, and it has been determined that these remain current and can continue to inform and support future leasing/licensing. The SEA Steering Group reviewed a draft of the report and the review document is available for download below.

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Offshore Energy SEA: research programme

The department has maintained an active SEA research programme; identifying information gaps (some of which are outlined in previous SEA Recommendations) and commissioning new research where appropriate. This has been part of the department’s offshore SEA programme since 1999.

A summary of recent research and its status is provided in the document below, and final reports (where published) are available for download. Completed studies relating to earlier SEAs are located on the British Geological Survey (BGS) SEA archive or the research page for OESEA2.

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The authors and researchers involved in SEA studies have been encouraged to submit papers for peer reviewed publication. A list of recent publications is given below.

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Appropriate Assessment

Following announcement of a Seaward Licensing Round or following receipt of applications for licences made under each Seaward Licensing Round, a screening assessment is undertaken by the department to determine whether the award of any of the Blocks offered or applied for would be likely to have a significant effect on a relevant European conservation site, either individually or in combination with other plans or projects. Those sites and related Blocks for which a potential for likely significant effect is identified at the screening stage are subject to further assessment (Appropriate Assessment, (AA)) prior to the Oil & Gas Authority (OGA) making a decision on whether to grant licences. These assessments are undertaken to comply with obligations under the Offshore Petroleum Activities (Conservation of Habitats) Regulations 2001 (as amended).

The most recent screening assessment was published in January 2020, and considered the potential for likely significant effects from potential activities in Blocks offered as part of the 32nd Seaward Licensing Round. The screening identified 239 whole or part Blocks as requiring further assessment, should they be applied for.

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Following the initial screening assessment (including consultation with the statutory agencies/bodies), those Blocks applied for and identified as requiring further assessment will be subject to an Appropriate Assessment (AA) prior to the Oil & Gas Authority making a decision on whether to grant licences. The 32nd Offshore Licensing Round closed for applications on 12th November 2019.

The reports listed below document the further assessment undertaken in relation to Blocks subject to AA in the previous nine Seaward Licensing Rounds.

25th seaward oil and gas licensing Round Appropriate Assessment

26th seaward oil and gas licensing Round Appropriate Assessment

27th seaward oil and gas licensing Round Appropriate Assessment

28th seaward oil and gas licensing Round Appropriate Assessment

29th seaward oil and gas licensing Round Appropriate Assessment

2016 Supplementary Licensing Round Appropriate Assessment

30th seaward oil and gas licensing Round Appropriate Assessment

31st seaward oil and gas licensing Round Appropriate Assessment

31st supplementary oil and gas licensing Round HRA screening (pdf)

How do you get involved?

Consultation

The OESEA consultation process has been designed to be in keeping with the Cabinet Office guidance on Consultation Principles for engaging stakeholders when developing policy and legislation. The guidance does not have any statutory basis and therefore where there are mandatory consultation requirements set out in legislation, or other requirements which may affect a consultation such as confidentiality, these must be adhered to.

The main elements of public and stakeholder consultation and input to the offshore energy SEA process are:

  • Publication through the Department’s offshore SEA webpages
  • Scoping
  • Stakeholder meetings and expert assessment workshops
  • A suitable public consultation period following publication of the Environmental Report
  • Post consultation report

Scoping

The objective of scoping is to identify the main issues of concern at an early stage so that they can be considered in appropriate detail in the SEA. Scoping also aids in the identification of information sources and data gaps that may need to be filled by studies or surveys to underpin the assessment. The SEA process includes a formal scoping step, the principal purposes of which are to:

  • Promote stakeholder awareness of the SEA initiative
  • Ensure access to all relevant environmental information
  • Identify opportunities for potential collaboration and the avoidance of duplication of effort
  • Identify information gaps so these could be evaluated and filled if necessary
  • Identify stakeholder issues and concerns which should be considered in the SEA

Stakeholder and other workshops

A number of workshops have been undertaken prior to each SEA. These have included expert assessment workshops, which bring together the expertise of the SEA Steering Group, the authors of underpinning technical reports, other users of the offshore area and the SEA team to bear on the assessment process for the particular SEA. Additionally, stakeholder workshops are held involving a wide variety of potential stakeholders, drawn from other government departments, local authorities, other industry bodies, academics and NGOs. The objectives of SEA stakeholder workshops are to provide stakeholders with updates on:

  • UK offshore energy supply context
  • The outcome of scoping
  • How issues raised in scoping are being addressed in the SEA process and consultation document
  • The outcomes of the assessment workshop
  • Initial conclusions of the overall assessment

Stakeholder input and a summary of issues raised in the meeting is used to inform the SEA process, and is document and included in an appendix to the environmental report.

Formal consultation

The environmental report is published for formal public consultation. The publication of the environmental report is advertised in the popular press and specialist journals. Copies of the report are made available free of charge either as paper or electronic versions, and more recently are posted to relevant coastal libraries where they may be consulted. Comments are invited by post or email.

Post consultation report

Following closure of the consultation period, the comments are given due consideration and a post consultation report is then produced. The post consultation report is published on the offshore SEA consultation webpage and made available as a download. Along with the post consultation report, a compilation of the consultation comments are published verbatim (according to the authors’ wishes).

Adoption statement

Following publication of the post consultation report, a ministerial statement is made to confirm the outcome of the SEA process (e.g. on adoption of the plan/programme, to proceed with further oil and gas licensing).

Contacts

Please direct queries to the Environmental Policy Unit:

oep@beis.gov.uk
01224 254015

News story: Electric taxis to go wireless thanks to new charging tech trial

  • government investing £3.4 million in wireless charging technology trials at taxi ranks in Nottingham
  • new technology could make it more convenient than ever to charge vehicles and could reduce cable clutter on streets
  • electric taxis in Nottingham to be fitted with wireless charging hardware for 6 month trial

The UK could soon see a revolution in electric vehicle charging after the Transport Secretary announced today (17 January 2020) that £3.4 million will be invested in trials for wireless charging of electric taxis in Nottingham.

Wireless charging at taxi ranks could provide an alternative to plugs and chargepoints, meaning multiple taxis can recharge at once, supporting drivers to charge up more easily. It would also reduce clutter on our streets.

As more and more people make the switch to electric cars this new technology could also be rolled out more broadly for public use, helping everyday drivers of electric vehicles charge more easily on the go.

Electrifying taxi fleets in congested city areas is crucial in bringing down transport emissions and cleaning up our air. However, the time taken to charge could reduce a taxi driver’s earning potential.

Installing wireless chargers at taxi ranks offers drivers the chance to recharge while waiting for their next passengers, so they can help the environment and start their journeys quicker. The technology, allowing for shorter and more frequent bursts of charging, will also benefit cars with smaller batteries, ending ‘range anxiety’ for drivers.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:

Taxi drivers up and down the country are at the vanguard of the electric vehicle revolution, playing a leading role in reducing air pollution in our city centres where people live, shop and work.

New wireless technology will make using an electric taxi quicker and more convenient, allowing drivers to charge up at taxi ranks before heading off with their next passenger.

Andrea Leadsom, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said:

Charging technology, including wireless, is vital in giving consumers confidence to make the switch from petrol to electric cars. This pioneering trial in Nottingham, and others like it, will help us take crucial steps towards lower emissions and cleaner air.

We are determined to end our contribution to global warming entirely by 2050 - and delivering cleaner and greener transport systems is a key part of this.

Minister for the Future of Transport George Freeman said:

Funding innovative transport technologies like wireless charging is a crucial part of our Future of Mobility strategy to support UK leadership in decarbonisation.

We are determined to harness UK science and engineering to bring down transport emissions and help make journeys greener.

Councillor Longford, Deputy Leader at Nottingham City Council said:

Nottingham is excited to host the trial of this new type of innovative charging technology, keeping us ahead of the pack, and helping to promote cleaner taxis in our city and potentially take us a further step forward towards our goal of being carbon neutral by 2028.

Ten Nissan and LEVC electric taxis in Nottingham will be fitted with wireless charging hardware for 6 months to trial taxi rank-based charging. The project, a collaboration between organisations including Cenex, Sprint Power, Shell, Nottingham City Council, Parking Energy, Transport for London and Coventry University could speed up charging and help reduce congestion in city centres.

Nottingham City Council will own the vehicles and provide them to drivers rent free. If successful, this technology could also be rolled out more broadly for public use, helping every day drivers of electric vehicles charge more easily on the go.

Electric taxi drivers have already benefited from measures including the exemption of zero-emission taxis from the higher rate of vehicle excise duty and £20 million for 27 local authorities to install electric taxi chargepoints across England and Scotland. The government is also offering a £50 million grant fund that provides drivers with up to £7,500 off the price of a new, eligible, purpose-built taxi.

Today’s announcement of the trial follows nearly £40 million funding announced in July 2019 for the development of electric vehicle charging technologies that could rapidly expand the UK chargepoint network for people without off-street parking.

Innovations which have already received investment include underground charging systems that don’t require on-street structures, suitable for busy urban streets, and solar powered charging.

Form: Nuclear innovation programme: advanced manufacturing and materials competition, Phase 2

Published 14 January 2019
Last updated 15 January 2020 + show all updates
  1. Draft grant funding agreement, including terms and conditions, added.

  2. Phase 2B of programme (Advanced Materials and Construction) now open to applications.

  3. The Finance Form has been updated and the Q&A document contains an additional three extra questions (Qs 30, 31 and 32).

  4. Questions and answers regarding the programme published, and deadline for submitting bids extended to 15 March 2019.

  5. First published.

News story: Government announces measures on regional connectivity

In a sign of the Prime Minister’s commitment to levelling up all regions of the UK, a review of regional connectivity will ensure all nations and regions of the UK have the domestic transport connections local communities rely on – including regional airports.

As part this work and ahead of the March Budget, the Treasury will also be reviewing Air Passenger Duty to ensure regional connectivity is strengthened while meeting the UK’s climate change commitments to meet net zero by 2050.

These measures featured in discussions today with Europe’s largest regional airline, Flybe, which plays an important role in the UK’s connectivity by flying regional routes that other providers do not operate.

In light of these discussions Flybe have confirmed they will continue to operate as normal, preserving flights to airports such as Southampton, Belfast and Birmingham.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid said:

I welcome Flybe’s confirmation that they will continue to operate as normal, safeguarding jobs in UK and ensuring flights continue to serve communities across the whole of the UK.

The reviews we are announcing today will help level up our economy. They will ensure that regional connections not only continue but flourish in the years to come – so that every nation and region can fulfil its potential.

Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom said:

I am delighted that we have managed to reach an agreement with Flybe shareholders to keep the company in operation, ensuring that regions across the country can continue to be connected.

My department and others across government have worked tirelessly in an incredibly short timeframe. This will be welcome news for Flybe, their customers and dedicated employees, as well as those in the supply chain. We will continue to work with Flybe and regional operators to find a sustainable long term future.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:

I am delighted that we have been able to work closely with Flybe to ensure Europe’s largest regional airline is able to continue providing their valued services, connecting communities across the UK.

The Department for Transport will undertake an urgent review into how we can level up the country by strengthening regional connectivity and will look at all the options that we have to make sure our airports can continue to play an important role in driving economic growth, creating jobs and greening aviation, across the country.

Mark Anderson, CEO of Flybe said:

Flybe is made up of an incredible team of people, serving millions of loyal customers who rely on the vital regional connectivity that we provide. This is a positive outcome for the UK and will allow us to focus on delivering for our customers and planning for the future.

Lucien Farrell, Chairman Connect Airways said:

We are very encouraged with recent developments, especially the Government’s recognition of the importance of Flybe to communities and businesses across the UK and the desire to strengthen regional connectivity. As a result, the shareholder consortium has committed to keep Flybe flying with additional funding alongside Government initiatives.

Additional information

  • At Budget 2018, the government announced that for the eighth year in a row short-haul rates will not rise, staying at £13 for economy and £26 for business/first, keeping down the costs of travelling for 80% of passengers.

  • UK passenger growth is strong: passenger numbers at UK airports have increased by 28% since 2013. This strength extends across the whole of the UK, with regional airports handling approximately 39% of all passengers in 2018.

TurkStream gas pipeline officially launched in grand ceremony

Gas supplies via TurkStream will help strengthen energy security in Turkey and Europe.

A grand opening ceremony for the TurkStream gas pipeline took place today.

Attending the event were Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of the Republic of Turkey, Aleksandar Vucic, President of the Republic of Serbia, Boyko Borissov, Prime Minister of the Republic of Bulgaria, Alexander Novak, Minister of Energy of the Russian Federation, Fatih Donmez, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources of Turkey, and Alexey Miller, Chairman of the Gazprom Management Committee. Burhan Ozcan, Chairman of the Board and General Manager at BOTAS, and Oleg Aksyutin, Deputy Chairman of the Management Committee – Head of Department at Gazprom, joined the event via teleconference.

TurkStream, which is laid in the Black Sea, is a link between the gas transmission systems of Russia and Turkey. The gas pipeline has two strings with a combined throughput capacity of 31.5 billion cubic meters. The first string will deliver gas to Turkey, while the second string is intended for gas transit to southern and southeastern Europe through Turkish territory.

The pipelaying for TurkStream took 15 months and was completed ahead of schedule in November 2018. The construction of the receiving terminal near the Kiyikoy settlement in Turkey was finished in 2019.

The starting point for feeding gas into TurkStream is the Russkaya compressor station (CS), which forms part of Russia's Unified Gas Supply System and is located near Anapa. With a capacity of 224 MW, the CS maintains the pressure required for transmitting gas along the pipeline's two strings through more than 930 kilometers up to the Turkish coast where gas enters the receiving terminal.

The TurkStream project is unique from a technological standpoint: for the first time ever, a pipe of 813 millimeters in diameter was laid at a depth of 2,200 meters.

At every stage of the project, including the operation stage, the highest standards of safety, inter alia environmental safety, are observed. Continuous environmental monitoring is performed.

“The launch of TurkStream is a history-making event. Firstly, taking into account exports via Blue Stream, we have paved the way for direct transit-free supplies to fully meet Turkey's needs for Gazprom's gas. Secondly, Europe now has a new and reliable route to receive Russian pipeline gas.

There is no doubt that, thanks to all of this, our cooperation with our Turkish and European partners is shifting to a new level and is going to help improve energy security in the region,” said Alexey Miller.



News story: Dean Beale appointed Chief Executive of the Insolvency Service

Following an open competition, Dean Beale has been appointed as the new Chief Executive Officer of the Insolvency Service. He took up post on 2 December 2019.

Dean has been acting as interim chief executive since September. Prior to this, he was Director of Strategy and Change, overseeing policy development, regulation of the insolvency sector and leading the department’s transformation programme.

Dean has worked in the insolvency field for over 20 years in a variety of roles. He has been an official receiver, acting as a trustee in bankruptcy and liquidation cases, and has undertaken many insolvency-related investigations.

In addition to his public sector experience, Dean has also spent time in the private sector as a forensic accountant investigating fraud and managing commercial disputes.

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