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Energy / Rosebank oil development given go-ahead

Its developers have made a $3.8 billion final investment decision to progress with phase one of Rosebank

THE ROSEBANK oil and gas field to the north west of Shetland has been given approval by the UK Government regulator.

A spokesperson for the government’s North Sea Transition Authority said on Wednesday morning that the project had received development and production consent.

Image: Equinor

“We have today approved the Rosebank Field Development Plan [FDP] which allows the owners to proceed with their project,” they said.

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

The development, which has sparked protests in Lerwick on environmental grounds, is led by owner Equinor and Ithaca Energy.

Following the government consent the partners have made a $3.8 billion final investment decision to progress phase one of the Rosebank development. First production is expected in 2026/27.

Local Green councillor Alex Armitage said it was a “weak decision” to approve the development.

He also called it “obscene” and said it should be challenged in the courts.

Tessa Khan, of the Uplift group which helps coordinate the Stop Rosebank campaign, said by approving the development prime minister Rishi Sunak “has confirmed he couldn’t care less about climate change”.

Protestors gather to voice opposition to Rosebank oil development

Rosebank is the largest undeveloped oil field in the region and it has the potential to produce hundreds of million barrels of oil.

While campaigners do not want it to proceed, Equinor – a Norwegian state owned company – said Rosebank would “bring much needed energy security and investment in the UK while supporting the UK’s net zero target”.

It would be developed with a Floating Production Storage and Offloading vessel (FPSO) tied to a subsea production system.

Oil would be transported to refineries by shuttle tankers, while gas would be exported through the West of Shetland Pipeline system – which connects to Shetland.

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Ithaca Energy confirmed that no decision has yet been made on any future electrification of offshore Rosebank infrastructure from shore, which potentially could come from Shetland.

The company said: “The Rosebank development has been optimised to reduce carbon emissions, in line with the North Sea Transition Deal, with the FPSO designed to be electrification-ready.

“Ithaca Energy and Equinor continue to collaborate with government and industry stakeholders to pursue a regional solution for power from shore to Rosebank and nearby fields with the objective of minimising carbon emissions from production.”

Ithaca Energy’s executive chairman Gilad Myerson said: “We are delighted to announce the decision to move forward with the Rosebank development alongside Equinor.

“Rosebank stands as the largest undeveloped field in the UK, and with the receipt of development consent from the NSTA, we are now poised to embark on a journey that will not only provide critically important domestic energy but also ignite substantial economic impact.

“The Rosebank project will create thousands of jobs and contribute significantly to securing the UK’s energy needs for many years to come.”

Equinor’s executive vice president of projects, drilling and procurement Geir Tungesvik 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.

Tessa Khan at Islesburgh Community Centre earlier this year. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

“Rosebank provides an opportunity to develop a field within the UK Continental Shelf which will bring significant benefits to Scotland and the wider UK.”

Uplift director Khan, however, said: “As we’ve heard repeatedly, our world can no longer sustain new oil and gas drilling. And when we’re witnessing scorching temperatures, wildfires, devastating flooding and heatwaves in our seas, it could not be clearer that this is a decision by the Prime Minister to add more fuel to the fire.

“Rosebank will do nothing to lower fuel bills or boost UK energy security. Most of this oil will be shipped abroad and then sold back to us at whatever price makes the oil and gas industry the most profit.”

She said Rosebank is “another case of the government allowing foreign companies to profit, while the costs are put on British people who worry about the world we are handing on to our children”.

“There are strong grounds to believe that the way this government has come to this decision is unlawful and we will see them in court if so,” Khan added. “We shouldn’t have to fight this government for cheap, clean energy and a liveable climate, but we will.”

Armitage added that the decision will “do nothing” to help people’s energy bills this winter.

He called for the approval to be reversed.

But Conservative Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston said there have been some “predictable hysterical responses from the usual suspects”.

“This is good news for the Highlands and Islands and those local communities where the sector supports so many jobs and livelihoods,” he said.

“We know that our oil and gas sector will continue to play an important role in our energy mix for years to come as we transition to new technologies, and that many oil and gas companies will play – and are already playing – an important role in that transition.

“And as the energy crisis eases, ensuring increased resilience for the future will be important. It is right that we utilise our own reserves, and well as reducing reliance on foreign reserves and regimes.”

Meanwhile the GMB union said “if the UK is to achieve better energy independence and be in the global race for climate jobs, we need a plan, not bans”.

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