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Gas Supplies (Brent Field)

Volume 13: debated on Monday 23 November 1981

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy what penalties he has enforced on Shell and Esso for late delivery of gas from the Brent field; and in what respects he expects the treatment of companies flaring gas to differ in the future.

Our policy will be to continue to reduce gas flaring where economically and technically feasible alternative outlets exist. Since the Government came to office in 1979, gas flaring has been reduced almost by half. Penalties for late delivery' of Brent gas are a commercial matter between the buyers and sellers.

Can the Minister really expect oil companies to take seriously all his huffing and puffing about not being allowed to flare gas when the Government have treated Shell and Esso in this way? How much gas will be lost before the timetable of the gas-gathering pipeline is caught up with, not in terms of the small private schemes that are coming forward now, but in terms of the totality that would have been brought ashore had the landing of gas been properly planned?

Flaring can never be completely eliminated, for safety and operational reasons. The Brent flare has been reduced by nearly two-thirds since mid-1979 and is now at a level that allows both a reasonable level of oil production to be maintained and the commissioning of further gas handling equipment to meet the companies' gas sales obligations. It might also interest the hon. Gentleman to know that gas flaring in the North Sea reached a peak in the second quarter of 1979, the last quarter for which the Labour Government had responsibility.

Is not the announcement that my hon. Friend made earlier in connection with the additional use of the Shell-Esso pipeline particularly welcome as it means that the gas concerned will be landed two years earlier than would have been the case with the gas-gathering pipeline?. Is it not also the case that the gas amounts to 40 per cent. of all the gas that we were assured would be going through the gas-gathering pipeline?

My hon. Friend is correct. This will bring gas ashore earlier than would have been the case.

Will the hon. Gentleman concede that FLAGS came into being despite his allegation against British Gas of monopsonistic power? What is the justification for abandoning the monopsonistic powers of British Gas?

I remind the hon. Gentleman that FLAGS has been constructed and will come into operation by means of the private sector.