Rosebank, located approximately 80 miles off the west coast of Shetland, ranks as the United Kingdom’s largest untapped oil field. Preliminary estimates indicate that it may potentially hold a staggering 500 million barrels of oil. Equinor and Ithaca Energy jointly lead this project, which has recently secured the necessary approvals for its development.

The primary source of concern revolving around Rosebank centers on its environmental impact. Detractors argue that this decision could exacerbate the ongoing problem of climate change. Alarming projections suggest that the operation, if fully operational, could contribute up to 200 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. This has prompted 50 Members of Parliament and peers from various political parties to voice their reservations. They have urged the government to reconsider their support, emphasizing the potential financial burden on taxpayers.

The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), the regulatory body responsible for overseeing oil and gas activities in the region, has approved the Rosebank Field Development Plan. NSTA has underlined that this decision aligns with its commitment to consider net-zero objectives throughout the project’s lifecycle. The UK government has welcomed this decision, emphasizing the thorough scrutiny and rigorous environmental assessments that preceded the project’s approval.

Supporters of the Rosebank development, including Energy Security Secretary Claire Coutinho, argue that it is vital for maintaining energy security and stimulating economic growth. They assert that relying on domestic supplies from North Sea fields, such as Rosebank, is a crucial step toward transitioning to cleaner energy and reducing dependence on foreign sources.

It is anticipated that Rosebank, should production commence as planned in 2026, could account for a substantial 8% of the UK’s total oil production between 2026 and 2030. The project’s estimated peak production could reach a staggering 69,000 barrels of oil daily, accompanied by approximately 44 million cubic feet of gas daily during its initial ten years.

Reactions to the approval of the Rosebank project vary widely. Environmental activists and some politicians view it as a severe threat to the environment and a potential obstacle to climate goals. In contrast, industry leaders and advocates contend that Rosebank is essential for energy security, job creation, and economic growth.

In summary, the Rosebank offshore development project off Shetland has emerged as a highly contentious issue, highlighting the delicate balance between economic benefits and environmental concerns. It underscores the challenges of transitioning to cleaner energy sources while the world continues to rely on fossil fuels. The decision to advance the Rosebank project has ignited a national debate on energy, climate change, and the future of the UK’s energy sector.

Main photo: Bill Kasman