Students protest Rosebank oil and gas field

By

On 1st October students – representing groups such as Eco DU, Durham Labour society, Just Love Durham, and some local groups, such as Christian Climate Action – gathered in the centre of Durham to protest the UK government’s approval of the Rosebank oil and gas field, the largest undeveloped oil field in the North Sea.

A spokesperson for the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero said: “While we respect the right to protest, the UK is a world leader in reaching net zero – cutting emissions faster than any other major economy.

“Rosebank is at the heart of our plans, as we will need, as the independent Climate Change Committee recognises oil and gas as part of our energy mix on the path to net zero, “We will continue to back the UK’s oil and gas industry to underpin our energy security, grow our economy and help us deliver the transition to cheaper, cleaner energy.”

Students and local groups gathered in Durham’s Market Square to protest the UK government’s approval of the Rosebank oil and gas field

Rosebank is to be operated primarily by the Norwegian state- owned oil giant Equinor; British firm Ithaca Energy is taking a smaller 20% stake in the oil field. It has the potential to start producing oil in 2026 and is estimated to produce 300 million barrels of oil over its lifetime: far more than the controversial Cambo oil field that drew similar protests in 2021.

The UK government claims that approving the oil field, located 80 miles west of Shetland, would increase energy security. However, the majority of oil extracted is expected to be sold to Europe and then reimported as refined products.

In a statement to Palatinate, a spokesperson for Equinor said, “It is not correct that the Rosebank output mainly will be exported.

“All the Rosebank gas will go into the UK pipelines system. The oil will be offloaded offshore. It is a light, sweet crude oil that can be  the field starts producing, the UK will get it.”

“It is not correct that the Rosebank output mainly will be exported”

Equinor

However, Rosebank oil will go to the UK through open market mechanisms: what Rosebank produces will be sold at world market prices, so the project will not cut energy prices for UK consumers.

Equinor and Ithaca have invested £3.1 billion in the first phase of the Rosebank project, however thanks to a government incentive scheme they will be able to claim back 91p for every £1 invested.

A spokesperson for Equinor told Palatinate, “There are no subsidies related to the Rosebank development. On the contrary the development will contribute, with very significant tax revenue and value creation for the UK.”

One of those speaking at the protest was Joe Boaden of Durham Labour Society, he told Palatinate: “It’s not going to help the common person, it’s not going to help the cost-of-living crisis, it’s just going to compound the climate problem.”

An Equinor spokesperson told Palatinate, “WoodMackenzie and Voar Energy have developed a socioeconomic report, estimating that Rosebank will contribute with £26.8 billion to the UK through tax payments and investments into the UK economy.”

“There are a lot of factors impacting oil and gas prices, but all new supply like Rosebank helps to keep the prices down. Today, Equinor supplies 29% of the UK’s gas and 15% of the UK’s oil.

“This is mainly from our fields on the Norwegian continental shelf. Rosebank will help counteract the decline in domestic production.”

“It’s not going to help the common person, it’s not going to help the cost-of-living crisis, it’s just going to compound the climate problem”

Joe Boaden

One member of XR (Extinction Rebellion) at the protest told Palatinate that: “I’m here today because we have no other option other than to protest against Rosebank. It is a complete crime that our own government is allowing more oil and gas used in refineries in the UK when all the scientists have been saying for twenty years that we cannot allow more exploitation if we’re to keep the temperature [increase] below 1.5°c.”

Some protesters wore orange high-vis vests, and many carried colourful, homemade signs and flags with slogans such as “There is no Planet B,”, “Act now for climate justice,” and bearing the Extinction Rebellion logo.

Rosie Semlyen, one of the main protest organisers and head facilitator of Eco DU, told Palatinate that: “It is a stupid economic decision, [the subsidies] are taxpayer money going towards a Norwegian company. 80% [of the Oil] will be exported, meaning it won’t go to Brits.

She continued, “if we want to stop global warming, we need to stop burning fossil fuels. The Government is continuing this agenda of oil and gas when they know it’s not going to help the climate crisis and it’s putting millions of people’s lives at risk.”

Arne Gürtner from Equinor said, “We know that the world needs to transition to new, cleaner energy systems and our broad energy investments into the UK support this. And while we do this there is going to be a continued need for oil and gas, which currently meets 76% of the UK’s energy needs.

“Our decision to progress the Rosebank development is the result of work and collaboration by our employees, partners, government, regulators, and other stakeholders to ensure that this development is able to help meet this ongoing need, with the lowest carbon footprint possible.”

“The Government is continuing this agenda of oil and gas when they know it’s not going to help the climate crisis and it’s putting millions of people’s lives at risk”

Rosie Semlyen

The protest in Durham comes off the heels of similar protests in London, Aberdeen and Oslo.

Despite a few hecklers, many students described a calm and welcoming atmosphere, with several attending their first climate protest.

One first-year student told Palatinate that the thought of coming to university had motivated them to “turn [their] beliefs into action,” stating, “I lived in the middle of nowhere. I’m a fresher so I’ve been here for a week [and] where I’m from it was hard to get involved in this sort of thing… I’ve had these beliefs, but I haven’t really been able to do anything about it.”

Another student said that they were comforted by their friends supporting them in going to the protest: “Personally, I don’t like attending protests alone, and having a group of like-minded students is really inspiring to me, not only to attend myself, but to know that there are others out there passionate about making a difference.”

Image: Luke Holland

One thought on “Students protest Rosebank oil and gas field

  • Producing an estimated 300 million barrels of oil during its lifetime, it has the potential to begin operations in 2026—far more than the contentious Cambo oil field, which sparked comparable demonstrations in 2021.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.