Controversial Rosebank oil field is granted approval

Rosebank, 80 miles west of Shetland, is estimated to contain 350 million barrels of oil.

A controversial North Sea oil field has been given the go-ahead, prompting anger from environmental campaigners.

Rosebank, which is one of the largest untapped oil fields in UK waters, has been granted development and production consent by the UK Government’s regulator, the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA).

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Environmental campaigners including Greta Thunberg had voiced strong opposition to the development.

Rosebank has been given the go-ahead. Photo: GettyRosebank has been given the go-ahead. Photo: Getty
Rosebank has been given the go-ahead. Photo: Getty

The UK Government said the move would create hundreds of jobs and contribute billions of pounds to the economy, but campaigners claimed the decision was “reckless” and “terrible for our energy security”.

The Rosebank field, which lies north-west of Shetland and contains up to 350 million barrels of oil, is currently one of the largest untapped discoveries in UK waters.

Rosebank could produce 69,000 barrels of oil per day, about 8 per cent of the UK’s projected daily output between 2026 and 2030, and could also produce 44 million cubic feet of gas every day, according to its owners.

First Minister Humza Yousaf posted on social media: “I’m disappointed Rosebank has been given the go-ahead.

“We’ve raised concerns that the majority of what is extracted from Rosebank will go overseas, not remain in Scotland or the UK. We’re investing £500m so workers & industry transition from fossil fuels to a net zero future.

“We recognise the significant contribution the oil & gas sector makes to Scotland. However, our future is not in unlimited oil & gas extraction. It is in accelerating our just transition to renewables.

“New oil & gas fields being approved risk the pace of that transition.

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“In the face of a climate catastrophe, the UK Government have dropped their green pledges & committed to approving 100 new oil & gas licences. That isn’t climate leadership. It is climate denial.

“Scotland will remain on the right side of history & demonstrate climate leadership.”

Production by 2026

The companies behind oil field, Ithaca Energy and Equinor, said they had taken their final investment decision to invest 3.8 billion dollars (£3.1 billion) in the project in the first phase of development.

They said that the field is expected to start producing in 2026-2027, with the project supporting around 1,600 jobs at its peak during construction, and long-term will supply around 450 jobs.

Energy Security Secretary Claire Coutinho said: “We are investing in our world-leading renewable energy but, as the independent Climate Change Committee recognise, we will need oil and gas as part of that mix on the path to net zero and so it makes sense to use our own supplies from North Sea fields such as Rosebank.

“The jobs and billions of pounds this is worth to our economy will enable us to have greater energy independence, making us more secure against tyrants like (Vladimir) Putin.

“We will continue to back the UK’s oil and gas industry to underpin our energy security, grow our economy and help us deliver the transition to cheaper, cleaner energy.”

But environmental campaigners hit out at the decision.

Greenpeace UK climate campaigner Philip Evans said: “Rishi Sunak has proven once and for all that he puts the profits of oil companies above everyday people.

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“We know that relying on fossil fuels is terrible for our energy security, the cost of living, and the climate. Our sky-high bills and recent extreme weather have shown us that.

“The ugly truth is that Sunak is pandering to vested interests, demonstrating the stranglehold the fossil fuel lobby has on Government decision making. And it’s bill payers and the climate that will suffer because of it.

“Why else would he make such a reckless decision?”

And Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said: “Giving the green light to this huge new oil field is morally obscene. This Government must be held accountable for its complicity in this climate crime.

“Amidst a summer of raging wildfires and the hottest July on record, this Government approves the biggest undeveloped oil and gas field in the North Sea – set to produce more than the combined CO2 emissions of all 28 low-income countries in the world.

“Energy security and cheaper bills aren’t delivered by allowing highly-subsidised, foreign-owned fossil fuel giants to extract more oil and gas from these islands and sell it overseas to the highest bidder.”

The UK Government said Rosebank has been subject to extensive scrutiny by the regulators, including undergoing a detailed environmental impact assessment process and a period of public consultation before approval was granted.

It said that all new projects, including Rosebank, will be in line with the natural decline of the North Sea basin.



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