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Climate / Cambo debate no setback for Orion, council insists

The Cambo field lies 125 kilometres north west of Shetland. Image: Siccar Point

WHILE the argument over whether to grant the Cambo oil field to the West of Shetland a production licence has risen to the top of the national news agenda over recent weeks, those behind the clean energy ORION project say the debate has no impact on its “ultimate long-term ambition”.

Shetland Islands Council’s future energy manager Douglas Irvine said even with no licences for new oil fields being granted, Orion’s main objective of transforming Shetland into the “UK’s first clean energy island” was unaffected by these decisions.

However, Orion project co-ordinator Gunther Newcombe told Shetland News earlier this year that electrifying three new large oil and gas developments to the West of Shetland – Clair South, Rosebank and Cambo – with electricity from the Viking Energy wind farm was key to the first phase of Orion.

Newcombe said those large oil production projects would not happen without a “net zero emission profile”. It now looks as though there are doubts over whether some of these will happen at all.

The 800 million barrel Cambo oil field, located 125 kilometres to the north west of Shetland and driven forward by Siccar Point Energy, had an exploration licence granted in 2001. A decision to give the go-ahead for production is expected before the end of the year, and if granted first oil could be produced by 2025.

That date would coincide with the planned commissioning of the 103-turbine Viking wind farm, which is said to become the UK’s most productive onshore wind farm once operational, but with no government subsidies in place the wind farm will not be protected from the fluctuations of the wholesale electricity market.

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Meanwhile Scottish office minister David Duguid was due to meet representative from Siccar Point today (Tuesday) to discuss the proposed Cambo field.

He said: “The Independent Climate Change Committee advises that we will continue to need oil and gas in the coming years as it is still vital to the production of many everyday essentials, including medicines.”

Irvine said: “The current debate over the development of new oil and gas fields in the Shetland region does not impact the Orion project’s ultimate long-term ambition, which is to transition Shetland to become powered by renewable energy sources.

“If new fields gain approval, Orion will work closely with developers to accelerate and deploy the technologies needed to ensure these new platforms are electrified and operate with net zero emissions.

“If licenses for new fields are not granted, Orion will still be required to work with the network of existing offshore platforms to electrify their operations.”

Irvine added that Orion’s main focus was on producing green hydrogen from offshore wind for use in Shetland and establishing an export market with Europe.

This, he said, would reduce Shetland’s dependency on fossil fuels by introducing a mix of renewable energies which would cut the region’s carbon emissions and tackle the island’s legacy issues with fuel poverty.

However, achieving these goals could well be another 10 years away as there is no offshore wind farm near Shetland and proposals for a large project to the east of Bressay are at a very early stage.

Following the publication of the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (ICPP) last week, described as a final wake-up call, environmental campaigners have stepped up their efforts to convince governments that there is no need for investment in any new fossil fuels.

In Shetland, so far, only the local branch of the Scottish Greens have come out publicly to oppose the Cambo field.

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