Collection

Offshore energy Strategic Environmental Assessments

Sectoral Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEAs) of the implications of further licensing of the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) for oil and gas exploration and production

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.

The process aims to help inform Ministerial decisions through consideration of the environmental implications of the proposed action. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), as the principal 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 earlier SEAs were carried out in accordance with its requirements.

The Department of Trade and Industry (now DECC) began a sequence of sectoral SEAs of the implications of further licensing of the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) for oil and gas exploration and production in 1999. For this purpose the UKCS was subdivided into 8 areas:

  • SEA 1, covering the deepwater area along the UK/Faroese boundary, was conducted in 1999/2000 in preparation for the 19th Licensing Round.

  • SEA 2, whose area includes the majority of existing oil and gas fields in the North Sea, was completed in December 2001 in time for the announcement of the 20th Licensing Round in January 2002. The discovery of the Buzzard field (Block 20/6), just within the area of SEA 2, increased the prospectivity of blocks in Quadrants 19 and 20 just outside the area. A re-assessment of SEA 2, including these blocks, was therefore subsequently carried out.

  • SEA 3, covering North Sea areas between SEA 2 and the English coastline, was conducted in 2002 in anticipation of the 21st Licensing Round.

  • SEA 4, which extends from the north coast of Scotland to the northernmost tip of the “Northern Triangle”, began with seafloor environmental surveys being carried out in summer 2002. The SEA 4 assessment and supporting documentation was placed on the website for public consultation in September 2003, and the process was completed by the end of 2003.

  • SEA 5, covering North Sea areas to the east of the Scottish coastline out to the SEA 2 area, began with seafloor environmental surveys being conducted in summer 2003. The SEA 5 assessment and supporting documentation were placed on the website for public consultation in September 2004. The 23rd Oil and Gas licensing round was announced in March 2005.

  • SEA 6 covers the UK area of the Irish Sea including waters off Northern Ireland. The SEA 6 assessment document was available on the website for consultation in November 2005 with the consultation ending on 31 January 2006. The 24th licensing round was announced in March 2006.

  • SEA 7 covers a large area to the west of Scotland including the Northern Rockall Trough. Environmental surveys were carried out in 2005 and 2006. The SEA 7 assessment and supporting documentation were placed on the website for public consultation in April 2007 with the consultation ending in June 2007.

  • SEA 8 which covers the English Channel was included in the Offshore Energy SEA which covered all UK waters. The Offshore Energy SEA considered a Draft Plan for further rounds of wind leasing, offshore oil and gas licensing and hydrocarbon gas storage licensing. Consultation on the SEA closed on 29th April 2009 and the Government decision on the draft plan/programme was announced on 24th June 2009.

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, DECC is guided by the SEA Steering Group, composed of departmental representatives, conservation and other agencies, NGOs, industry representatives and independent experts.

Documents

  1. Strategic Environmental Assessment 2 (SEA 2)
  2. Strategic Environmental Assessment 7 (SEA 7)
  3. UK Offshore Energy Strategic Environmental Assessment 2 (OESEA2)
  4. UK Offshore Energy Strategic Environmental Assessment (OESEA)
  5. Strategic Environmental Assessment 3 (SEA 3)
  6. 26th Seaward Licensing Round
  7. Strategic Environmental Assessment 6 (SEA 6)
  8. Offshore Energy Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA): An overview of the SEA process
  9. Strategic Environmental Assessment 4 (SEA 4)
  10. 25th Seaward Licensing Round
  11. Offshore Wind Farm Development: Strategic Environmental Assessment (Wind R2)
  12. Strategic Environmental Assessment 5 (SEA 5)
  13. 27th Seaward Licensing Round
Published 16 May 2013