Newly published documents show Rosebank had a three-month wait for approval from the UK North Sea’s watchdog after its environmental counterpart gave the go-ahead.
The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), which has final sign-off, was told on June 16 that environmental regulator Opred and the UK energy secretary had granted consent.
Approval for the Equinor-operated west of Shetland oilfield was announced by NSTA yesterday, three months later.
Mind the gap – other projects were not on North Sea watchdog’s desk so long
NSTA does not comment on individual cases but, in general terms, said: “Every project is unique and assessed on its own merits.
“The time taken to reach a decision is dependent on a project’s characteristics.”
Documents, including the energy secretary’s decision to grant Rosebank approval, on June 8, were not published until today – a break from usual process on regulatory approvals for oil and gas projects.
Rosebank’s decision was for months believed to be “imminent” and at one point it was thought it would happen before summer.
It takes time to do it properly.”
Graham Stuart, energy minister
Asked yesterday about the timeline to Rosebank being approved, Energy Minister Graham Stuart said it was about ensuring “very high” standards are met.
He added: “It’s been extremely thorough. We have net-zero as a duty the regulators follow within their systems. They go through comprehensive environmental assessments. They do public consultation; they make sure that any projects that pass in UK waters meet very high environmental standards, protecting marine life and the like.
“So, it takes time to do it properly.
“Putin can turn off the gas tap, but as far as I’m aware, he can’t turn off the wind”
Broadcaster & Conservationist @ChrisGPackham criticises the Government’s decision to approve Rosebank oil and gas field, arguing the UK should invest in renewables instead.#Peston pic.twitter.com/KBMdlPiYLl
— Peston (@itvpeston) September 27, 2023
“We’ve already got those trying to suggest they might take legal action against this decision and that’s why the regulators and others involved have been extremely thorough in their efforts to make sure this is a decision which should pass muster, regardless of the investigation for which it is subject.”
Arne Gurtner, UK senior vice president at Equinor, was also asked about timelines for Rosebank’s approval.
He said: “It is the regulator’s prerogative to issue that and, of course, we have been working hard to comply with the regulations and guidelines of a very mature regulatory system in the UK and regulatory bodies.”
Legal challenge to Rosebank
Campaign groups including Uplift have vowed to deliver a legal challenge to the decision to approve Rosebank.
Uplift said the approval decision was incompatible with the UK’s climate targets and argued regulators have failed to assess the environmental impacts.
Meanwhile. broadcaster and conservationist Chhris Packham has attacked the government over its decision, saying the UK should be investing in renewables instead.
The Opred documents published today say Rosebank will have “no significant effects on the environment”.