Rosebank is the biggest undeveloped oil and gas field in the North Sea. Rosebank is huge. At nearly 500m barrels, (1) it's nearly three times the size of the Cambo oil field*. 90% of its reserves are oil, which are likely to be exported. In September 2023, the UK government approved an application to start developing the field. (2)
Burning Rosebank’s oil and gas would create more CO2 than the combined emissions of all 28 low-income countries in the world, including Uganda, Ethiopia and Mozambique. (3)
In other words, the climate pollution from this one UK field would be more than the 700 million people in the world’s poorest countries create in a year. These are the same countries that have contributed the least to the climate crisis but which are already experiencing among the worst impacts of a warming planet.
For people and climate, we must ensure Rosebank’s oil stays in the North Sea.
Rosebank is 80% owned by oil and gas giant Equinor, which is majority-owned by the Norwegian government, and holds a 40% stake in the field. (4) The last 20% is owned by Israeli firm Ithaca Energy - who are also the new owner of the Cambo oil field. (5)
The UK public would carry almost all the costs of developing Rosebank, while these oil companies take the profits.
Thanks to a huge, new subsidy introduced by the UK government with the windfall tax, the UK public would effectively hand over more than half a billion pounds to Rosebank’s owners to develop the field. (6) That’s over £500 million that is supposed to help people in the UK struggling with unaffordable energy bills. Equinor describes this subsidy as ‘helpful’. (6) If developed, Rosebank will therefore make the UK poorer but the Norwegian state richer. Norway already has a national wealth fund worth trillions built from its oil and gas assets.
Despite this huge taxpayer subsidy, the UK public will see little benefit from Rosebank.
Rosebank’s oil will do nothing to lower fuel costs in the UK.
Like 80% of all North Sea oil, the majority of Rosebank’s oil will most likely be put in tankers and exported for refining overseas.
Rosebank will create fewer real jobs than Equinor is promising.
Equinor claims that Rosebank will create 1600 jobs, but the real number is less than a third of this, with the rest temporary employment in the very short period during the peak of the project’s construction. (7) Many more years of employment can be created through investment in renewables than fossil fuels. (8)
Last year thousands of us came together and forced oil giant Shell to pull out of the development of the Cambo oil field in the North Sea. Now is the time to oppose its much, much bigger neighbour, Rosebank and stand up to Equinor.
Equinor is already being resisted around the world: campaigners have successfully forced Equinor to pull out of or pause the Wisting oil field in Norway (9), Bay Du Nord project in Canada (10) and the Bight project in Australia (11). Campaigners in Argentina are also resisting the company's intention to lead the industry in opening a new fossil fuel frontier there.
With the decision to approve Rosebank, the government is siding with oil and gas giants over a liveable future for all. But we have the public on our side. The soaring cost of fossil fuels is the cause of the current cost-of-living crisis and people – from UK farmers to its firefighters – are now awake to what is being done to our planet by profiteering oil and gas companies. People want a reliable, affordable energy supply that doesn’t put the planet at risk.
Sources: 1. Rystad Energy Resource Estimates; 2. Rosebank Field Development summary; 3. World Bank: CO2 emissions; 4. Equinor: Rosebank Environmental Statement.; 5. Reuters: Ithaca Energy acquires Shell's stake in UK Cambo field; 6. The Times: Equinor is counting on tax breaks with plans for North Sea oilfield.; Wood Mackenzie & Voar Energy. 7. Rosebank: Investing in energy security and powering a just transition ; 8. Vivid Economics. Opportunities for a Green Recovery: UK ; 9. Oil Change International: BREAKING: Equinor postpones Wisting Oil Field; 10. Equiterre: We must say NO to Bay Du Nord!; 11. Guardian: Great Australian Bight: Equinor abandons plans to drill for oil.
*The Rosebank Environmental Statement submitted by Equinor covers two phases of the Rosebank project, totalling nearly 500 million barrels of oil equivalent. The original proposal for Cambo totalled 170 million barrels of oil equivalent, with the possibility of future expansion.