Drilling the Cambo oil and gas field will help the UK cut its carbon emissions, the head of the industry body has claimed.
Deirdre Michie, chief executive of Oil and Gas UK, defended plans for the offshore project near Shetland.
The proposals led to a protest at the UK Government offices in Edinburgh on Monday, where the Stop Cambo group blocked the entrance to the building.
The protesters said it will produce 800 million new barrels of oil and is indefensible in the year where the UK is holding the Cop26 international climate summit.
In an opinion article for The Scotsman, Ms Michie said there would still be demand for oil and gas in the UK if fields like Cambo were halted.
She said: “Instead, the country will have to import it from overseas – frequently from countries with higher emissions and less commitment to act on them.”
Ms Michie said the industry had agreed a plan with the UK Government to reduce its carbon emissions, known as the North Sea Transition Deal.
She continued: “Projects like the Cambo field are part of a low-carbon journey that will support energy security, jobs, the economy and the net-zero future that everyone wants to see.
“Like all future UK oil and gas projects, the Cambo field is designed with lower-operating emissions in mind.
“It has been built ‘electrification-ready’, with the potential to import renewable power when it becomes feasible in the future.
“It is in line with the industry’s decarbonisation targets, and it is included in the country’s long-term energy projections.”
She added: “Cambo is not a new project, despite how it has been portrayed by some.
“The Cambo exploration licence was granted back in 2001.”
The Scottish Green party said there could be no justification for opening a new oil field.
Climate spokesman Mark Ruskell said: “Deirdre Michie’s claim that opening a new oil field is ‘part of the low carbon journey’ is audacious doublespeak from an industry determined to keep expanding fossil fuel production even when the world is committed to reduce it.
“The fact is the North Sea already has more oil than we can afford to burn if we are to meet the Paris climate commitments and secure our survival, so approving new fields would be a catastrophic decision by the UK Government.
“The oil and gas industry cannot be trusted to plan for its own decline, we need urgent investment in the alternatives, like renewable energy and proven ways to decarbonise heat and transport.
“Increasing extreme weather events show we are already well above the safe level of global atmospheric CO2, so we simply don’t have time for this kind of smoke and mirrors from the UK Government and its industry backers.”