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UPDATE 1-UK says no need for deepwater oil, gas drill freeze

* Deepwater drilling needed to stem oil, gas output slide

* EU has no say on member states’ drilling activity

(Recasts, adds background, comment and details)

LONDON, Oct 11 (Reuters) - There is no case for declaring a moratorium on deepwater oil or gas drilling in British waters, the government said on Monday, adding deepwater exploration was vital for the country’s energy security.

EU energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger is expected to call on Wednesday for a temporary ban on new deepwater drilling until a probe is completed into the causes of BP's BP.L Macondo oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. [ID:nLDE6961A5]

“We do not see a case for a moratorium on deep drilling. We are learning from the Macondo incident, but we do have a demanding regulatory regime,” a spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said, adding no EU body had the power to declare a moratorium on drilling.

Britain’s offshore operating rules were tightened after the Piper Alpha platform exploded in the North Sea in 1988, killing 167 people in what remains the world’s worst offshore accident for human casualties.

UK safety regulator the HSE may tighten them again if investigations into the Deepwater Horizon rig disaster, which sparked the worst offshore oil spill in history, show holes in British rules. [ID:nLDE67N1CR]

In the meantime, the government is vetting all new drilling operations on a case by case basis and has stepped up inspections of mobile drilling rigs after the Gulf of Mexico spill in April.

TRANSITION TO LOW CARBON ECONOMY

With Britain’s oil and gas production expected to fall more than 25 percent by 2015, intensifying the UK’s dependence on imported fuels, the government wants to encourage drilling in harder to reach areas of the UK continental shelf.

“The UK Government is determined to drive forward our move to a low-carbon economy and develop the UK’s renewable energy sources but this cannot happen overnight,” the DECC spokesman said.

“Deepwater oil and gas production is necessary during the UK’s transition to a low carbon economy,” he said.

“It is a choice between producing oil and gas here in UK waters, where we have one of the most robust safety and regulatory regimes in the world, with all the economic benefits that will bring, or paying to import oil and gas from elsewhere.

The government estimates Britain’s deepwater oil and gas resource potential to be around 3 billion-3.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent, or 15-17.5 percent of the country’s total resources. <^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

For a story on Britain's declining oil and gas output click: [ID:nLDE68T1WG] here

For a factbox and timeline on the Gulf of Mexico spill click: [ID:nN09243936] [ID:nN19208366] ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^>

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