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Lerwick will play his part as installation work begins at Rosebank

Work has started on the Rosebank oil and gas development north-west of Shetland – with Lerwick playing a role in the process.

Equipment for the development has already arrived at Lerwick Harbor by boat to be shipped onwards to the field ahead of drilling next year.

For example, a well template sits high on a docking site at the Greenhead base, and more shipments are expected.

Shetland could also play a role in the electrification of the floating production, storage and offloading vessel (FPSO) that will be used to process the oil and connect to shuttle tankers for export.

One option could be to run a power cable to the FPSO from Shetland.

While oil will pass through Shetland, gas from Rosebank will pass through a pipeline through the Shetland Gas Plant.

The Rosebank oil development – ​​led by Norwegian company Equinor – won regulatory approval last year, amid protests from environmentalists who say the oil should be left in the ground in the drive for net zero.

The first oil is expected from Rosebank, about 130 kilometers northwest of Shetland, at the end of 2026.

Rosebank is the largest undeveloped oil field in the region, with a total expected quantity of approximately 300 million barrels.

A delegation of visitors involved in the development were in Shetland on Wednesday to tour the harbour, as well as hold an event with local partners and businesses.

The team said they could not provide figures on the financial benefits of the project to Shetland.

However, Lerwick Port Authority will be a major beneficiary given ship movements and equipment storage, with companies including Peterson SBS, GAC Shipping and Lerwick Engineering and Fabrication (LEF) also involved.

Meanwhile, the entire Rosebank project could support a total of 2,000 jobs at peak, with an investment of around £8 billion.

© Provided by Dave Donaldson
Part of the Rosebank infrastructure arriving in Lerwick for onward shipment to the field.

Speaking at the port on Wednesday morning, Rosebank project director Aud Hove said two shipments of equipment had already been to Lerwick, with three more expected in the summer.

The number of shipments is expected to increase next year.

Nine section anchors have already been installed on the Rosebank field, with more to come in June and July.

“We bring everything here (Lerwick) so we can have an efficient installation and have everything as close to the field as possible,” Hove said.

Equinor’s head of UK offshore operations, Arne Gurtner, added that Lerwick is “strategically positioned” for the development.

The project will involve a drilling rig performing the drilling before the FPSO comes in to collect and process the oil.

The FPSO vessel Petrojarl Knarr will be connected to the development via flowlines.

Oil can be stored on the ship – which remains in place – before shuttle tankers export it to market.

In terms of electrification of the FPSO, work has already begun on reconfiguring the vessel, but Equinor was unable to provide exact details on how power could be supplied from Shetland.

“Our ambition is to electrify Rosebank as quickly as possible,” said Gurtner.

“Part of that is the work we do on the ship itself. The other part is looking at the energy source, and we hope that we can make progress on that too and secure an energy source from the Shetland Islands.”

It also potentially ties into Shetland’s complex energy puzzle, which will see the islands connect to the national grid later this year and become a net exporter of power through the Viking Energy wind farm.

Just over three years after Viking's inception, the 103rd and final turbine has been installed in Shetland. © Provided by SSE Renewables
The installation of the 103rd and final turbine in Shetland brings this phase of the Viking project to an end.

Electrification of offshore oil and gas assets has always been part of Shetland’s future energy setup and onshore wind power was previously mentioned by Equinor as a way to deliver a “low carbon” energy source via cable.

Meanwhile, the Equinor team said it was acutely aware of the environmental issues that continue to swirl around the Rosebank project.

Their visit to Shetland happened to come on World Environment Day, an initiative of the United Nations.

Gurtner said Equinor is taking a “balanced approach” that also includes offshore wind and carbon capture and storage.

“We see that there is still a fairly persistent demand for oil and gas in society (…). That will decrease and it must decrease,” he said.

“But in that decline, I think projects like Rosebank are actually the projects that need to go further, that start with the lowest possible emissions from the start and then with the option of electrification.”

Meanwhile, local climate activist Andrea Sanchez was among those who attended Equinor’s General Assembly in Norway last month.

In an opinion piece published by Shetland News after her trip to Norway, Sanchez said: “Rosebank is a very good deal for Equinor and its shareholders, but (is) a very bad deal for the people of Shetland and Scotland.”

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