Rosebank oil and gas field 'could be worth over £24bn to UK economy'

The North Sea's largest untapped oil and gas field was first discovered in 2004.

Rosebank: North Sea oil and gas field could be worth over £24bn to economy, says Equinor iStock
Rosebank oil and gas field could be worth over £24bn to the economy, investors have said.

Development on the North Sea’s largest untapped oil and gas field could be worth more than £24bn to the economy, investors have claimed.

Rosebank, located west of Shetland, is also expected to create more than 1,200 UK jobs at its peak, while maintaining an average of 450 during its lifetime.

Energy firm Equinor announced its intention to develop and operate the field on Friday.

It comes amid mass criticisms of fuel production developments from across the country – the most notable of which, the Cambo and Jackdaw fields, are also located in the North Sea.

Last month, Greenpeace UK announced it would be taking the Westminster government to court over the Jackdaw proposals, amid claims the regulator had not considered the gravity of potential damage to the environment by its “particularly polluting” brand of gas.

Another contentious oil and gas field, Abigail, was approved earlier this year – just three months on from COP26 – which was said to be “worsening the climate crisis” by activists.

Presumably to combat such backlash, the energy firm committed to investing £80m into making Rosebank “one of the first energy developments on the UK continental shelf to be powered by electricity”.

The Norwegian company said the field would have a “significant impact” on the UK’s production outlook, estimated to account for 8% of the country’s oil production in its first four years, between 2026 and 2030.

It added that the field also had potential to produce an average of 21 million standard cubic feet of natural gas daily, which is equivalent to the daily average use of gas in the city of Aberdeen.

It is also estimated that £24.1bn would be generated and invested into the country’s economy over the lifetime of the project.

The Oslo-based firm gained operatorship of Rosebank in 2019, and has since been working to optimise and mature a development solution for the field, which was discovered in 2004.

Arne Gürtner, senior vice president of Upstream in the UK and Ireland said: “Equinor is committed to Net Zero by 2050 and is ready to invest to bring energy security while also transitioning to lower-carbon energy sources over the coming years.

“Here in the UK we are building the world’s largest wind farm, Dogger Bank, and are planning some of the largest hydrogen and CCS (carbon capture and storage) projects in the world. That said, for the next few decades oil and gas will continue to play a vital role alongside these low carbon systems.

“Therefore, while we still need oil and gas, we aim to develop and operate projects such as Rosebank with the lowest possible carbon footprint while bringing the maximum value to society in the shape of UK investment, local jobs and energy security.” 

University of Aberdeen’s interdisciplinary director of energy transition, Professor John Underhill, said: “The decision to develop and operate the field is a significant development in terms of helping ensure the UK’s energy security through new oil and gas production yet acknowledges the need to decarbonise on the path to a Net Zero future.

“It is important to get the right balance between oil and gas and renewable energy sources, whilst ensuring that supplies are secure, affordable, and environmentally sustainable. However, given the UK’s current dependency on oil and gas to meet our energy needs and stresses currently on supply lines, the move to decarbonise is a transition and cannot be a cliff edge so, having indigenous sources is a vital part of the mix.

He added: “Rosebank is not without its geological and engineering challenges and will be a complex project to deliver. If these can be overcome, the project has the potential to reinvigorate activity in the West Shetlands area and provide around 8% of the UK’s oil production.”

Philip Evans, Greenpeace UK oil and gas transition campaigner, said: “This is what happens when the government helps out oil companies with cushy tax breaks.

“Meanwhile UK households suffer, and the climate crisis rages on, triggering a national emergency and causing death and destruction in the Global South. It’s shameful.

“If Rosebank goes ahead, it will do nothing to help drivers or households with rising costs, because the oil doesn’t belong to the UK and goes to a global market.

“The government is already facing two legal battles after approving new fossil fuel projects with no proper assessment of climate impacts. We will fight Rosebank every step of the way, and urge the government to crack on with quick, cheap solutions that will actually help in the cost-of-living crisis and the climate emergency – renewables, home insulation and heat pumps.”