An offshore development at Rosebank, the UK’s largest untapped oilfield, located 80 miles west of Shetland, has been granted consent by regulators. The North Sea Transition Authority (NTSA), the oil and gas regulator, gave development and production approval to Equinor and Ithaca Energy, the companies running the project.

Equinor and Ithaca Energy have claimed that if production starts in 2026, Rosebank could produce 8% of the UK’s total oil output between 2026 and 2030.

Gilad Myserson, executive chairman of Ithaca Energy, said: “Rosebank stands as the largest undeveloped field in the UK, and with the receipt of development consent from the NSTA, we are now poised to start on a journey that will not only provide critically important domestic energy but also ignite substantial economic impact.”

The proposed project is controversial due to its negative impact on the environment. The International Energy Agency said in April this year that no new oil and gas fields should be developed if the global warming is to be limited to 1.5°C. Burning Rosebank oil could produce more than 200 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide.

In March 2023, Shadow Energy Secretary Ed Miliband publicly opposed the oil field, stating: “The same resources could build the future. The government siphons money to companies making record profits to persuade them to invest in expensive solutions that will not cut bills by a penny.”

In May 2023, opposition leader Keir Starmer said he would block all North Sea drilling if he were elected in 2024, before transposing his comments by saying he would not retroactively cancel ongoing developments including Rosebank.

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Offshore Energies UK (OEUK), a trade body for the offshore energy sector, said the UK needs more projects like Rosebank if it is serious about domestically produced energy in the future. David Whitehouse, CEO of OEUK, said: “This is good news for our jobs, our economy and our secure energy future. By promoting homegrown energy production, we avoid costlier, higher carbon imports while making more reliable supplies of energy in the UK, for the UK.”

Equinor, the Norwegian state energy company, owns 80% of the project and Ithaca Energy owns the remaining 20%. It claims Rosebank will create up to 1,600 jobs.