News that Equinor is pushing ahead with the development of a major North Sea oil and gas field appears to have split opinion at Aberdeen University.
It was announced last week that the Norwegian energy giant had submitted a key document on the road to getting the West of Shetland project up and running.
In an effort to spotlight the wider benefits of Rosebank, Equinor (OSLO:EQNR) also published a report into the economic and employment impacts of the 300 million barrel field.
Across its lifetime, the Oslo-listed operator predicts it will invest £8 billion in the scheme – it will also support hundreds of UK jobs.
In a lengthy statement, Professor John Underhill, interdisciplinary director of energy transition Aberdeen University, expressed his support for Equinor and the scheme.
He said: “I am delighted that Equinor and its partners plan to take forward the Rosebank project. The decision to develop and operate the field is a significant development in terms of helping ensure the UK’s energy security through new oil and gas production yet acknowledges the need to decarbonise on the path to a Net Zero future.
Professor John Underhill, our Interdisciplinary Director for Energy Transition, has welcomed today’s announcement by @Equinor that it plans to invest in developing the Rosebank oil and gas field. Read his full comment here: https://t.co/AHAHHonEZH pic.twitter.com/8ChE3Mr1yL
— University of Aberdeen (@aberdeenuni) August 5, 2022
“It is important to get the right balance between oil and gas and renewable energy sources, whilst ensuring that supplies are secure, affordable, and environmentally sustainable. However, given the UK’s current dependency on oil and gas to meet our energy needs and stresses currently on supply lines, the move to decarbonise is a transition and cannot be a cliff edge so, having indigenous sources is a vital part of the mix.”
Differing opinions on role of oil
But Professor Underhill’s comments were met with a degree of opposition online, and some of his colleagues sought to distance themselves from his position.
In a post on Twitter, Professor Tavis Potts, a senior figure in the university’s school of geosciences, said: “As a University of Aberdeen employee, not everyone agrees with this energy strategy or pathway. The IPCC, IEA, UN highlight no new oil and gas to meet Net Zero. Cheaper renewables will solve the energy crisis.”
We also do a lot of work at the University critically analysing the climate compatibility of new fossil fuel developments with Net Zero commitments, just transition implications, and effects of rising energy costs on households.
— Dr Daria Shapovalova 🇺🇦 (@daria_arctic) August 7, 2022
Daria Shapalova, co-director of the Aberdeen University Energy Law Centre, added: “We also do a lot of work at the University critically analysing the climate compatibility of new fossil fuel developments with Net Zero commitments, just transition implications, and effects of rising energy costs on households.”
University a ‘broad church’
In a statement given to Energy Voice, Professor Underhill said: “Just as in wider society the University is home to a broad church of views, and it is absolutely right that people and organisations debate and challenge opinions that don’t necessarily align with their own – particularly in complex areas of vital importance such as the energy transition.
“It’s my view that it is important to get the right balance between oil and gas and renewable energy sources, whilst ensuring that supplies are secure, affordable, and environmentally sustainable.
“Given the UK’s current dependency on oil and gas to meet our energy needs and stresses currently on supply lines, the move to decarbonise is a transition and cannot be a cliff edge so, having indigenous sources is a vital part of the mix.
“I believe that the approach that Equinor are taking towards Rosebank, which it aims to operate with the lowest carbon footprint possible, strikes a responsible balance between the need for energy security and our shared journey towards a net zero future.”
‘This is fine’
Unsurprisingly, a number of environmental campaigners and groups also weighed in and gave their two pennies worth on Rosebank, which will likely become the next North Sea battlefield.
One Twitter user accused Aberdeen University of “failing your students and losing credibility as an institution”.
Another said Professor Underhill’s comments reeked of “oil and gas industry propaganda”, while the ‘this is fine’, dog fire meme also made a token appearance.
— eric got weird 🇺🇦 🎂 MIRTE & KITCHEN SONG DAY! (@ericthelemming) August 8, 2022