Rosebank, the UK’s largest undeveloped fossil fuel field, is set to be approved by regulators within the next two weeks, City A.M. understands.
The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) and Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment & Decommissioning (OPRED) are now expected to sign off on the project.
This will leave energy security secretary Grant Shapps with a decision over whether to intervene or let the decision pass, which would be a tacit endorsement of the development.
The energy firms backing Rosebank – Equinor and Ithaca – will then release their final investment decisions, following the regulators’ green lighting of the project,
The Norwegian energy giant did not offer a timeline for the project but a spokesperson told City A.M. that Rosebank could “counteract the decline in domestic oil and gas production” and contribute to “UK and European energy security”.
Ithaca declined to comment, but City A.M. understands that while it was initially unsure about its role in the project, it is now more upbeat about the future of the project following recent talks with the government.
Shapps has not publicly expressed support for Rosebank, but he has consistently criticised Labour’s plans not to permit new oil and gas developments if it wins the next election, linking their policies to protestors Just Stop Oil.
News that the project is set to be approved by regulators follows Labour leader Keir Starmer confirming he would not retroactively cancel ongoing developments in the North Sea – including Rosebank – despite shadow climate secretary Ed Miliband’s public opposition to the oil and gas field.
If Rosebank is green-lit, the decision will provoke fury from climate activists and green groups, which have argued that further development of oil and gas projects will jeopardise the UK’s net zero goals.
Robbie MacPherson, political adviser at campaign group Uplift said “approving Rosebank would an unbelievably bad deal for Britain”.
“How can Grant Shapps look at the marine heatwave happening to our seas right now, causing harm to our wildlife, and even think about pouring more fuel on the fire?” he said. “The secretary of state shouldn’t mistake the support of a few oil and gas cheerleaders in the press for public backing.”
The NSTA and the government both declined to comment.