Controversial £3.1billion Rosebank oil field development is green-lit

Controversial £3.1billion Rosebank oil field development is given the green light: Regulators grant consent to Norwegian firm Equinor to drill in UK largest untapped oil and gas field off the coast of the Shetland Islands

  •  Equinor says 350million-barrel project will bring ‘significant benefits’ to UK

Britain has given a controversial new oil and gas development off the coast of Scotland the green light despite pressure from campaigners such as Greta Thunberg to scrap it.

The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) says Equinor and Ithaca Energy can press ahead with the Rosebank oil field north-west of Shetland.

Rosebank is said to contain up to 350 million barrels of oil – one of the largest untapped discoveries in UK waters – but the approval will likely reignite debate over the country’s journey towards net-zero.

Last week, prime minister Rishi Sunak scaled back the UK’s short-term plans to hit a 2050 net zero target – moves he called ‘long-term decisions for a brighter future’.

Norwegian firm Equinor says $3.8billion (£3.1 billion) will be invested in the Rosebank development, which it says will bring ‘significant benefits’ to Scotland and the UK as a whole.

The Rosebank oil field is said to contain up to 350 million barrels of oil (pictured: an oil rig anchored on the coast of Scotland)

Protests have taken place across the UK in opposition to the Rosebank project, with Greta Thunberg among those to have rallied against it

Rishi Sunak scaled back the UK’s net-zero plans in a major policy shake-up last week, with delays to a ban on petrol and diesel cars among other announcements made

READ MORE: Rishi Sunak gets a boost before Tory conference as polls show Conservatives clawing back ground on Labour following Net Zero U-turn – while PM’s personal ratings also rise 

Geir Tungesvik, executive vice president in projects, drilling and procurement, said:  ‘Developing the Rosebank field will allow us to grow our position as a broad energy partner to the UK, while optimising our oil and gas portfolio, and increasing energy supply in Europe.’

An NSTA spokesperson said: ‘We have today approved the Rosebank Field Development Plan (FDP) which allows the owners to proceed with their project.

‘The FDP is awarded in accordance with our published guidance and taking net zero considerations into account throughout the project’s lifecycle.’

Rosebank could produce 69,000 barrels of oil per day, about 8% 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 Equinor.

The Norwegian driller also says 1,600 jobs will be supported during the construction phase of the Rosebank project, with 450 jobs maintained for the lifespan of the field.

The UK Government welcomed the decision and said it 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.

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.’

Energy security secretary Claire Coutinho Claire Coutinho welcomed the announcement

But environmental campaigners have voiced strong opposition to the development, and today 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.

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?’

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