Regulators give go-ahead to controversial Rosebank oil & gas field development

Thu 28 September 2023 View all news

Regulators have given approval for the development of the Rosebank oil and gas field, located 80 miles west of Shetland, to the owners Equinor and Ithaca Energy. The field is the UK's largest untapped field, estimated to hold up to 300 million barrels of oil. 

The plan has faced widespread criticism due to its impact on climate change while the Government and supporters of the project say it will help the UK's energy security and reduce reliance on imports.

The announcement comes soon after the Government said that it would issue hundreds of new licences for oil and gas exploration in the North Sea.

Over the summer 50 MPs and peers from all political parties said that the development could produce 200 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, urging then Energy Secretary Grant Shapps to block it. Opponents said that the development of new fossil fuel resources is not compatible with national and international attempts to tackle climate change and that it will undermine Britain's international standing and influence.

The Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, said (quoted by CNBC): “We are accelerating renewables and nuclear power, but will still need oil and gas for decades to come — so let’s get more of what we need from within British waters.”

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said: “Giving the green light to this huge new oil field is morally obscene. This Government must be held accountable for its complicity in this climate crime.  

"Amidst a summer of raging wildfires and the hottest July on record, this Government approves the biggest undeveloped oil and gas field in the North Sea – set to produce more than the combined CO2 emissions of all 28 low-income countries in the world."

The Rosebank field is located in the Faroe-Shetland Channel on the north-west edge of the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) in water depths of around 1100m and 15km from the Faroes median line. 

The development is planned to be divided into phases; seven wells are planned to be drilled in Phase 1 and up to five wells in Phase 2. Field installation activities will commence from 2024 and continue through 2026. First production is expected before the end of 2026 with production predicted to peak at 9,540 tonnes/day during 2027/2028, then plateau until 2033. Gas production is predicted to peak at 1.72 million m3/day between 2029 and 2031, before steadily declining. 

Image courtesy Zachary Theodore, Unsplash


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