Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new energy security strategy, aimed at tackling soaring global prices in the face of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, is counting on Scotland to drive the UK’s energy transition. As well as Scotland’s huge wind potential, the region also borders the North Sea, where the government plans to issue new drilling licenses for oil and gas exploration. The statement read: “Our ambitious plans also include a licensing round for new oil and gas projects in the North Sea due to launch this autumn, with a new task force providing tailored support for new developments – acknowledging the importance of these fuels for the transition and for our energy security, and that the production of gas in the UK has a lower carbon footprint than that imported from abroad.
Government reports estimate that 7.9 billion barrels of oil reserves and resources remain under the North Sea, as well as 560 billion cubic meters of gas.
Fossil energy projects in the North Sea have been the subject of controversy in the past, with the proposed Cambo oil field facing widespread backlash from climate activists who have argued that the project would hamper net zero pledges from the UK.
After facing strong opposition from climate change protesters, development of the oil field was put on hold when Shell pulled out.
However, Dr Bridget Woodman, a senior lecturer in the University of Exeter’s deputy principal’s energy policy group, believes the new energy strategy could spur Shell to reopen the oilfield and resume development.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, she said: “Yeah I think that [Energy Security Strategy] will relaunch the Cambo project.
“Shell pulled out of it last year for economic rather than political or climatic reasons and now that the price of oil has gone up, along with the government’s clear support for more offshore development, I’m pretty sure that they will reconnect with the project and that it will move forward.
“The strategy is not to get Cambo off the ground, but to ensure that even more offshore oil and gas is developed beyond that.”
It will be a blow to Ms Sturgeon, as she has continued her opposition to the oil field, arguing that renewable energy is key to reducing the continent’s dependence on Russian gas.
READ MORE: Sturgeon humiliated: Plot to block North Sea drilling thwarted
Meanwhile, Professor Neil Strachan, director of the UCL Bartlett School of Environment Energy & Resources, told Express.co.uk: “I don’t think the return of the Cambo oil field is very likely.
“Developing a new oil field requires a lot of up-front capital and investors should be confident that high prices and strong oil demand are in place not just for the next two years, but for the next 20 years.
“And a major new oil field development is not compatible with the UK’s net zero strategy.”
Dr Woodman warned that restarting the Cambo oilfield would raise questions about the UK’s compliance with its net zero legal commitments.
She continued: “More offshore development inevitably leads to higher emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, so encouraging it demonstrates an inexcusable lack of commitment to our climate security and that of future generations.
“Combined with the reckless commitment to a huge expansion of the nuclear sector, where cost overruns and project delays are rampant, our climate commitments are in serious jeopardy.”