Britain has given the go-ahead for Equinor to develop the Rosebank oil and gas field in the North Sea in a move likely to provoke fresh criticism from environmental campaigners.
Equinor, which holds a majority stake in Rosebank, one of the largest undeveloped oil and gas fields on the British continental shelf, will invest $3.8 billion alongside its partner to develop the field.
The announcement is likely to reignite the debate around Britain’s climate change strategy after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak watered down the country’s interim plans to hit the 2050 net zero target last week.
Environmental campaigners had urged the Conservative government to halt the Rosebank development, arguing it contravened the plan for a net-zero economy.
But Sunak threw his weight behind the North Sea in July, saying Britain needed new domestic fossil fuels to improve energy security.
The field is expected to produce 300 million barrels of oil in its lifetime.
“We have today approved the Rosebank Field Development Plan which allows the owners to proceed with their project,” the North Sea Transition Authority said.
Oslo-listed energy company Equinor will be the operator of the field, north-west of Shetland, alongside Britain’s Ithaca Energy.
Ithaca said Rosebank would underpin 8.1 billion pounds ($9.84 billion) of direct investment in Britain, supporting up to 1,600 jobs during construction.
The first production is expected in 2026-27.
One of the largest untapped deposits in UK waters, Rosebank holds an estimated 350 million barrels of oil.