Rosebank Oil Field Gets The Green Light

September 27, 20230

The controversial Rosebank Oil Field has been approved by the UK Government and is currently the largest undeveloped oil field in the UK. Rosebank is more than twice the size of Cambo Oil Field which is estimated to produce 800 million barrels of oil, and will produce more than 69,000 barrels per day, add £17bn to the oil and gas industry and create 200,000 jobs.

Map showing the location of both Rosebank Oil Field and Cambo Oilo Field with respect to Shetland.

The Backlash

Energy Security Secretary Claire Coutino said in a statement that whilst we are investing in renewables across the UK, Rosebank will help to increase energy security in the age of Putin and ease the transition to cheaper and cleaner energy.

However, the approval of Rosebank comes just 1 day after the International Energy Agency (IEA) published its updated report the transition to net zero by 2050 for the energy sector which reiterates that there must be no new global oil and gas extraction capacity beyond what has been agreed upon before the end of 2021.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has said that to reach net zero the UK will still need some oil and gas; however, it will not require the creation of new oil and gas fields without stronger climate checks. Research by CarbonBrief predicts that the oilfield will create annual emissions of up to 90 countries over its lifetime.

Letters from campaigning organisations including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have been written to 20 of Equinor’s financers urging them to reconsider as this would void their commitment to 1.5 degrees of warming. These financers include Barclays, JP Morgan, and BNP Paribas.

Image showing the roadmpa o net zero by 2050.
IEA’s roadmap to net zero by 2050 showing the key milestones to be met along the way.

Will Rosebank provide domestic energy security?

Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP said the approval of Rosebank is “morally obscene” and “It won’t make the slightest difference to people’s energy bills” on BBC Radio 4’s Today Program.

This was confirmed during a press briefing where Arne Gurtner, Equinor’s Senior Vice President for the UK stated that “If the UK needs Rosebank oil, it will go to the UK through the open market mechanisms”.

Concerns around whether Rosebanks oil and gas production would go overseas instead of solidifying domestic energy security have not been addressed by the UK Government.

As a result, there is no solid reasoning as to why Rosebank will improve energy security in the UK and bring down people’s energy bills, leaving the UK Government with a lot to answer for.

OnGen opinion

OnGen supports the decarbonisaton of energy supply through its digital services, particularly to maximise the opportunities to generate green renewable energy onsite. Whilst oil and gas will be needed in the transition to net-zero, in plastics, fertilisers, paints and medicines, the current UK government faces a dilemma. Just last week, the Conservatives rolled back on their green policies related to gas boilers and EVs citing the need to keep the public onside if net zero was to be achieved.  There is a danger that approving new gas and oil exploration licenses (there will be 100s according to the UK Government) will communicate the wrong direction of travel and a lack of consistency.

The best way to achieve complete energy security is to invest in our renewables sector and provide more support for onsite renewable generation. This will guarantee clean and cost-effective energy at a time when a cost-of-living crisis is sending people into fuel poverty and facing one of the toughest Winters on record. Renewable energy sources are reliable in the long term whilst our fossil fuel reserves are a short-term solution and a finite resource.

Investing in Rosebank will only slow down the pace at which the transition to renewables must happen. The energy price shock of 2022 after Russia cut off much of its gas supply to Europe is still playing out. Generating homegrown renewable energy here in the UK is the solution, not only for energy security but for creating thousands of jobs, lowering energy costs for consumers, improving public health, reducing carbon emissions, and reaching net zero.

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