The development of the Rosebank oil and gas field would breach the United Kingdom’s climate targets, according to a new analysis by the organization Uplift.
Following our analysis of the impact of the Rosebank oil field on the UK's carbon budgets, one of the industry regulators, the North Sea Transition Authority, has unsurprisingly taken issue with our conclusions.
The Rosebank oil and gas field is located about 130 km northwest of Shetland in the Faroe-Shetland Channel on the northwest edge of the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS). According to the company’s estimates, Rosebank would produce 300 million barrels of oil.
In 2019, the Norwegian state-owned multinational company Equinor acquired the oil and gas field’s operatorship. The project Licensees are Equinor UK Limited, Ithaca SP Energy E&P Limited, and Suncor Energy UK Limited.
According to Rosebank’s Environmental Statement submitted to the Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment and Decommissioning (OPRED), the field’s so-called “first oil” is expected in late 2026. Peak oil production would be reached in 2027/2028 at 9,540 tonnes/day before plateauing until 2033.
The Rosebank field would still produce oil after 2050, the year in which the UK should reach its net zero target, a goal that the UK government is not on track to meet according to the “Net zero policy tracker: March 2023 update” by the British think tank and charity Green Alliance.
In 2021, the International Energy Agency (IEA) published its “Net Zero by 2050 A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector,” which outlined how the global energy sector can reach a net zero goal by 2050. There are no new oil and gas fields in the pathway mapped out by the agency.
Part of the UK scientific and academic community has voiced dissent about new oil and gas field development in the country, with hundreds of scientists and academics signing a letter addressed to the UK PM Rishi Sunak urging him to halt new oil and gas development.
The analysis by Uplift
Starting from a baseline of 18.2 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) in 2018 for the British upstream oil and gas emissions, the analysis by Uplift reveals that the emissions from the Rosebank field production would exceed the targets set in the North Sea Transition Deal (NSTD), the 2021 deal stipulated between the UK government and the offshore oil and gas sector.
The Climate Change Committee (CCC), the statutory body which advises the UK government on emissions targets, has commented that the GHG footprint reduction goal of 50 percent by 2030 relative to a 2018 baseline for the British offshore oil and gas production established in the NSTD is lower than that recommended in the CCC’s Sixth Carbon Budget advice.
The analysis shows that the Rosebank oil and gas field emissions would contribute to the industry exceeding its 2028-2032 emissions budget by about 10 percent. Rosebank and other fields would push the UK’s oil and gas industry almost 40 percent past its carbon budget.
The United Kingdom’s carbon budgets consider upstream emissions from the industry, which amount to four percent of the country’s total emissions, and do not consider the emissions generated when the oil and gas are burned. Burning the Rosebank field’s reserves is estimated to create more than 200 million tonnes of CO2.