Government at odds over contradicting Rosebank oilfield claims

The Government is at odds with its own claims that the controversial Rosebank oil field would help improve energy security in the UK, with a minister claiming that it would “not be desirable” to force oil and gas production from the North Sea to be used domestically.

Government at odds over contradicting Rosebank oilfield claims

Pictured: Platform operations in the Grane oil field in the North Sea. Image C: Equinor

Rosebank is the largest undeveloped oil field in the North Sea. Located west of Shetland, it is more than twice the size of the controversial Cambo oil field.

The Rosebank project was approved by regulators in September 2023, following a series of delays, as regulators sought more information on the environmental impacts of the project.

At the time the Government claimed that the decision would support and oil and gas industry which adds £17bn annually to the economy and supports around 200,000 jobs.

As first reported by the Guardian, the Government is now seemingly contradicting its own stance that approval of Rosebank would improve UK energy security, therefore helping households against rising energy costs.

As recorded in written statements from a Parliamentary session on 6 December, Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle called on the Government to explain whether “new gas and oil produced in the North Sea will be allocated for domestic use”.

In a written response, Government Whip Amanda Solloway and  Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero stated that it would not be “desirable” for oil and gas produced in the North Sea to be set aside for UK use.

“The UK is a net importer of both gas and oil. Gas produced in the UK is the equivalent to about half of our demand,” Solloway wrote. “However, due to UK refinery specifications and global market conditions, around 80% of the oil produced in the UK is refined overseas into the products demanded by the UK market. It is not desirable to force private companies to “allocate” oil and gas produced in the North Sea for domestic use.”

According to Equinor’s estimates, the Rosebank project represents a direct investment of approximately £8.1 billion, of which £6.3 billion is likely to be invested in UK-based businesses, with the developer also estimating that at its peak the field producing 69,000 barrels of oil and 44 million cubic feet of gas per day.

Many green groups, corporates and even some MPs have all opposed the Rosebank project. MPs on the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on climate urged Sunak “in the strongest possible terms” to block the development of the Rosebank oil and gas field.

Additionally, more than 60 organisations have jointly issued a cautionary message to Equinor’s primary banking partners, advising against financing the Rosebank oil field on climate grounds.

Climate Change Committee (CCC) report notes that while the UK will still require a certain amount of oil and gas until it achieves net-zero, it will not need to develop new North Sea oil and gas fields without stronger climate stress checks. Separate research from CarbonBrief found that burning all the North Sea oil and gas reserves in the Rosebank field would be equivalent to the annual emissions of almost 90 countries.

A Department for Energy Security and Net Zero spokesperson told edie: “As a net importer, it makes sense to use home-grown British resources to manage the decline in domestic oil and gas production in a way that reduces our vulnerability to hostile states. UK gas production is four times cleaner than shipping Liquefied Natural Gas to the UK.

“We will continue to back the UK’s oil and gas industry, which underpins our energy security, supports up to 200,000 jobs, and will provide billions in tax revenue over the next 5 years – helping fund our transition to net zero.”

Comments (1)

  1. Peter Reineck says:

    Absolutely nothing to see here! This is how the oil & gas industry operates, with UK and global market demand determining the best disposition of Rosebank output.

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