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Energy / No decisions yet on Rosebank electrification

Rosebank is situated to the west of Shetland.

THE OPERATOR of the proposed Rosebank oil field west of Shetland says no decisions have been made about how the development may be electrified.

It comes amid concern from environmental campaigners that it could be powered by onshore wind power from Shetland.

State-owned Norwegian oil company Equinor is keen to power any Rosebank development from electricity and running a cable to Shetland is one option.

Next year Shetland will be connected to the national grid for the first time, allowing large wind farms – like the 443MW Viking development – to export power south and enabling the diesel-run Lerwick Power Station to go into standby.

But the cable will also be able to take power up to Shetland if needed.

If all wind farms proposed to be built onshore in Shetland come to fruition the generating capacity will exceed the 600MW of the subsea cable running to the mainland.

In the environmental statement for the Rosebank development, which is yet to get the final go-ahead from the UK Government, the developer said: “Electrification connected to the electrical grid on Shetland has the greatest potential for GHG [greenhouse gas] reduction with the proposed wind farms on Shetland providing a low carbon source of energy via cable.”

But the developer of the 103-turbine Viking Energy wind farm, which is currently under construction, did not offer much clarity when asked about the matter by Shetland News.

A spokesperson for SSE Renewables said: “The Viking wind farm project is progressing well.

“When complete, the 103-turbine, 443MW onshore wind farm will harness the excellent wind conditions in Shetland to be capable of producing enough energy to power the equivalent of almost half a million homes, including every home in Shetland.

“SSE Renewables is committed to playing a crucial role in contributing towards the UK and Scotland’s net zero targets.”

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Meanwhile Statkraft, which is behind three future wind farm projects in Shetland including two in Yell, said it is not in any “current negotiations to supply the electrification of oil rigs” off the isles.

Rosebank is the largest undeveloped oil field in the North Sea region and it has the potential to produce hundreds of million barrels of oil over its lifetime. The field sits around 130km to the west of Shetland.

But it has drawn criticism from environmental campaigners who say there should be no more oil and gas extraction in the drive to net zero.

An anti-Rosebank protest, the second to be held in Shetland in recent weeks, was held at Lerwick’s Market Cross on Friday.

Protestors gather to voice opposition to Rosebank oil development

Those on the other side of the argument say oil is needed during the transition.

Equinor says the field will be developed with a redeployed, refurbished Floating Production Storage and Offloading vessel (FPSO) tied to a subsea production system.

This FPSO would be “electrification-ready”.

The Rosebank environmental statement, submitted to the government in 2022, reiterated that if power came from Shetland new infrastructure would need to installed, including potentially a substation and “new overhead lines or underground cabling on Shetland”.

This would include a subsea power cable which could stretch to 150 to 175 kilometres in length, depending on where landfall is.

The statement said Equinor had been working with a variety of parties, including SSEN Transmission, Shetland Islands Council and Marine Scotland, regarding possible electrification from shore.

Equinor is also one of three partners in a group set up to look at electrification of future West of Shetland developments, including Cambo.

A representative for the group said that “work continues towards determining a preferred concept”.

Electrification of offshore infrastructure has been a key part of the ORION clean energy project.

An image from an ORION Project slideshow.

The Rosebank environmental statement also said a floating wind farm close to the field could achieve partial electrification.

Speaking this week, a spokesperson for Equinor said while no decisions have been made, “we have the ambition to develop Rosebank with the lowest possible carbon footprint, and together with [other west of Shetland operators] bp and Ithaca we are looking into power from shore possibilities”.

They said Rosebank has the potential to “strengthen energy security with oil and gas that is produced with a much lower carbon footprint than current UK production”.

“The field will have a low carbon footprint compared to the current UK Continental Shelf average already before electrification. With electrification, it will be even lower. The electrification schedule is driven by the confirmation of the power source, grid connections and necessary offshore and onshore consenting.”

Tessa Khan, executive director of Uplift – which advocates a “fossil fuel-free UK”, said: “Shetlanders have a right to know where the energy produced by the Viking wind farm is going: will it be used to provide cheaper energy to homes in Scotland, or will the majority of it go to hugely profitable companies to drill for oil that will likely be exported overseas?

“It’s incumbent on the government, regulators and companies to be open and clear about this before a decision is made on whether or not to approve Rosebank.

“As it is, we have no idea whether any deals being done are in the public’s – and Shetland’s – interests or not.

“Rosebank, which is oil mainly for export, could end up damaging UK energy security if it ends up taking vast amounts of cheap, clean energy that could otherwise be used to power hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses.”

Meanwhile in a Viewpoint article published by Shetland News local Green councillor Alex Armitage said he felt talk of electrification was “no more than a glossy public relations stunt”.

Speaking in the UK parliament this week Green MP Caroline Lucas also said onshore wind power in Shetland is “clean, cheap energy that should be used to power hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses, not an enormous oilfield”.

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