The Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil (OUGO) is a new Government office which aims to promote the safe, responsible, and environmentally sound recovery of the UK’s unconventional reserves of gas and oil. The Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil covers not only the development of shale gas and oil but also other forms of unconventional production such as coal bed methane.
Successful exploration of unconventional resources in other countries, notably the United States, has proved an important source of energy. We know that there are, for example, large shale resources in the UK but we do not yet know how much of the unconventional energy in the UK is recoverable.
Ultimately the question of whether recovery of these resources is economically viable is one for industry, but the Government wants to ensure the right framework is in place to support industry and local areas as this exploration and, in some cases, production, moves forward. The Government wants to see any growth potential realised, to enhance our energy security where possible, and to safeguard the environment and public safety in the process.
OUGO sits within the Department of Energy and Climate Change, part of the Energy Development Unit. The Unit is responsible for encouraging and overseeing energy development in the UK, including licensing oil and gas exploration and production to ensure we make the best use of our available natural resources. OUGO will work closely with other parts of government with an interest or responsibility in this area, facilitating the co-ordination of the work across a number of bodies and departments in order to achieve the following:
Making the most of our natural resources
- Ensure we make the best use of our natural resources by encouraging the development of the unconventional gas and oil industry in the UK in a way that maximises the benefits to the economy in terms of improving security of supply, creating jobs, growth and investment, and supporting the transition to a low carbon economy at the least cost.
- Work with HMT to ensure coherence between the regulatory and licensing regimes and the taxation system in place to support the growth of these industries.
Enabling development, protecting the environment and safeguarding the public
- Ensure regulation of the industry, including the planning and permitting processes, is as streamlined and simplified as possible through the exploration, appraisal and development phases to full production, while remaining sufficiently robust to safeguard public safety, the workforce, and the environment.
- Ensure government has the right policies in place to ensure safe decommissioning of sites and high quality restoration of the land, without increasing burden to the public purse.
Making sure local communities benefit from development in their area
- Ensure the delivery of a coherent framework for the delivery of local communities benefit directly from any development in their area.
Supporting public engagement
- Support public engagement, helping people understand the facts about unconventional gas and oil production and what it could mean if it takes place in their area.
- Support local authorities to engage with their communities on issues specific to their area in relation to exploration and production, helping to resolve issues and ensure projects are able to move forward, where appropriate, with the engagement of the local community.
Building our knowledge base
- Support the provision of comprehensive, timely and accurate information on unconventional gas and oil recovery development, ensuring research is carried out to fill knowledge gaps and allow us to base our policy on the best available evidence.
- Ensure liaison with European and International bodies so we can learn from experiences elsewhere, and ensure we are joined up in our approach where appropriate.