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Consent for development of UK's largest untapped oil field granted by regulator

27 September 2023

The UK’s North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) granted development and production consent for the Rosebank oil field on 27 September. The consent has been given by the oil and gas regulator to owners Equinor and Ithaca Energy, following the acceptance of the Environmental Statement. Rosebank, located around 80 miles (129km) west of Shetland, is the UK's largest undeveloped oil field and contains around 300 million barrels of oil.

Petrojarl Knarr FPSO - Image: Altera/Equinor
Petrojarl Knarr FPSO - Image: Altera/Equinor

An NSTA spokesperson said: “We have today approved the Rosebank Field Development Plan which allows the owners to proceed with their project. The FDP is awarded in accordance with our published guidance and taking net zero considerations into account throughout the project’s lifecycle.”

Following approval, Equinor and Ithaca Energy announced that they will progress with 1 of the Rosebank development on the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS), investing £3.1 billion ($3.8bn). Phase 1 will target an estimated 245 million barrels of oil.

The field will be developed with subsea wells tied back to a redeployed Floating Production Storage and Offloading vessel (FPSO), with start-up planned in 2026-2027. Oil will be transported to refineries by shuttle tankers, while gas will be exported through the West of Shetland Pipeline system to mainland Scotland.

The Petrojarl Knarr FPSO has been designed to be electrification-ready and Equinor is collaborating with government and industry to pursue a regional solution for power from shore to Rosebank and nearby fields to minimise carbon emissions from production. The Rosebank oil and gas field is being developed in compliance with the North Sea Transition Deal, an agreement between the UK government and the offshore industry, Equinor said in a statement.

The Rosebank development has faced criticism in recent months from environmentalists and a number of MPs who say it could produce as much as 200 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. In August, 50 MPs and peers from across the major parties wrote to the then Energy Secretary Grant Shapps and urged for the development to be blocked. They said much of the development cost would land at the feet of the taxpayer and that the environmental impact of Rosebank could be devastating.

According to an independent socioeconomic report by Wood Mackenzie and Voar Energy, Rosebank is estimated to create £8.1 billion of total direct investment over the lifetime of the field, of which 78% is likely to be invested in UK-based businesses. It is expected to support around 1,600 jobs during the height of the construction phase of the project, and it will continue to support approximately 450 UK-based jobs during the lifetime of the field.

Image: Equinor

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