Petrojarl Knarr FPSO; Source: Equinor

One of UK’s largest undeveloped oil fields put on hiatus once again

Reports indicate that the decision on whether to approve or not one of the largest undeveloped oil fields in the UK is unlikely to see the light of day anytime soon. The latest delay comes at a time when climate change concerns are gathering momentum, exacerbated by heat waves. This backdrop combined with decarbonisation requirements is increasingly pushing regulators to employ greater scrutiny over the energy industry’s electrification and sustainability plans to ensure alignment with net-zero targets.

Petrojarl Knarr FPSO; Source: Equinor

Earlier this week, reports started circulating that Rosebank, one of the previously delayed energy projects, located West of Shetland, was facing additional obstacles that may hinder its progress and delay the sanctioning yet again. The decision regarding the approval of this controversial project, previously expected in July, does not seem likely to come before August and could even be delayed until the autumn, as it is allegedly being put on hold until parliament recess is over.

Environmental activities and climate campaigners are rejoicing after hearing about the delay while also intensifying their efforts to put the kibosh on the development of this project. Some politicians, like the Scottish Greens, have urged the UK government to put an end to plans to develop this oil field on climate grounds, claiming that “Rosebank is a climate disaster waiting to happen. 2023 must be the year when we begin the long-overdue transition from oil and gas to renewables.”

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Freya Aitchison, Friends of the Earth Scotland oil and gas campaigner, commented: “This is the latest in a long series of delays showing that the pressure from campaigners and across civil society to stop the disastrous Rosebank field is working. However, the UK government needs to end its climate denial and say no to Rosebank once and for all.

“The vast majority of the emissions from any oil field comes from burning the oil and gas extracted, not from the production process. The claim that companies will power the extraction with renewable energy is a greenwashing distraction from the true damage this field will cause.”

Environmentalists say that the UK regulator is raising concerns over Rosebank being at odds with Britain’s legally-binding climate targets. According to Friends of the Earth Scotland, Rosebank is the biggest undeveloped oil field in the North Sea and if all the oil and gas contained within it is burned it will produce the equivalent CO2 emissions of the annual emissions of 28 low-income countries.

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Aitchison further added: “The wind farm on Shetland that is earmarked to provide electricity to Rosebank and other oil fields could either power three new oil fields or all the homes in Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Shetland put together.

“It should be a no-brainer that this clean power should be used to bring down people’s energy bills and not to prolong the lifespan of the oil and gas industry. The Scottish government needs to find its voice and join the chorus who strongly oppose this disastrous project adding to the pressure on the UK government to say no to Rosebank.”

While Equinor, as the operator of Rosebank, and its partners are saying the field may be powered with renewable energy, climate activities see this as a greenwashing attempt to lower the carbon footprint of the oil field. Environmentalists under the campaign slogan #StopRosebank, say that “instead of providing cheap, renewable electricity to hundreds of thousands of homes (actually lowering bills and increasing energy security), Equinor could use it to power more climate-wrecking oil extraction.”

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The campaigners further underscore that Rosebank will still contribute to pushing the world beyond 1.5 C, as scientists and experts warn that new fossil fuel infrastructure is not compatible with net-zero. Located about 130 kilometres off the coast of the Shetland Islands in the UK, the Rosebank oil and gas field is estimated to contain 300 million bbl of potentially recoverable reserves. Equinor previously confirmed to Offshore Energy that the final investment decision (FID) was slated for Q3 2023.

If sanctioned, the Rosebank project would create £8.1 billion of direct investment – including the development, operation and decommissioning of the field – based on Equinor’s projections. According to the Norwegian giant, the reuse of the Petrojarl Knarr FPSO, which recently worked for Shell on the Knarr field in the North Sea off Norway, as opposed to building a new one, will avoid 250 thousand tonnes of CO2 emissions.

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As MPs from the Liberal DemocratsLabourGreen Party, and the Scottish Green Party have come out against Rosebank, environmentalists claim that it is impossible to justify approving a huge new oilfield like Rosebank with the UK meeting its climate obligations.

The activists at StopCambo see the new delay as “a testament to the massive opposition and public scrutiny we have built together. This is the power that we have when we take on the oil industry and the governments that enable them. We will continue to fight this climate disaster. By pushing back on every front, we will stop Rosebank.”