Cambo oilfield: Work on controversial site paused after Shell pulls out

Developer says it is considering ‘next steps’

Matt Mathers
Friday 10 December 2021 15:12
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The developers behind the controversial Cambo oilfield off the west coast of Scotland has paused work on the site. Siccar Point Energy (SPE), an Aberdeen-based oil and gas company, said it is considering its “next steps”.

The move comes just days after Anglo-Dutch multinational Shell said it was scrapping plans to invest in Cambo, which has become a lightning rod for climate activists in the UK who are demanding an end to the development of new oil fields.

In a statement on Friday Jonathan Roger, SPE chief’s executive, said: “Following Shell’s announcement last week, we are in a position where the Cambo project cannot progress on the originally planned timescale.

“We are pausing the development while we evaluate next steps.

“We continue to believe Cambo is a robust project that can play an important part of the UK’s energy security, providing homegrown energy supply and reducing carbon intensive imports, whilst supporting a just transition.”

Environmental groups have long opposed the proposed field.

They warned it would jeopardise hundreds of species in the ocean and have threatened the UK government with legal action.

Last week Shell, which had a 30 per cent stake in the development, said it had “concluded the economic case for investment in this project is not strong enough at this time, as well as having the potential for delays”.

In November, Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon said the project should not go ahead.

It followed months of pressure from opposition parties and campaigners for the Scottish government to make its position on Cambo clear.

Industry body Oil and Gas UK previously said blocking long-planned energy projects like Cambo would risk leaving the UK at the mercy of global energy shortages.

The Scottish Conservatives said SPE’s decision is “extremely concerning” for the oil and gas industry.

The party’s shadow secretary for net zero, Liam Kerr, said: “The hostile SNP-Green stance on projects like Cambo is making it less attractive for energy companies to invest in Scottish oil and gas.

“It’s clear the shameful, ignorant, anti-business views of this coalition are now not only jeopardising our ability to meet net zero targets but also abandoning thousands of jobs in the sector.

“Without investment in these projects, we risk becoming even more dependent on foreign imports rather than making use of Scotland’s domestic reserves of oil and gas.

“We warned bringing the extremist Greens into government would damage Scotland’s economy and the effects of this are now being seen.”

Responding to the move GMB, the energy union, pointed to figures showing the UK spends billions of pounds on oil imports from other countries, claiming the decision to pause work on the site amounted to “surrender of the national interest”.

The UK government has responsibility for granting a permit for the site but there is little it can do if its backers decide they don’t want to press ahead with the development.

Gary Smith, GMB’s general secretary, said: “It’s meant to be a transition to a low carbon economy, not a surrender of the national interest.

“The cheerleaders for Cambo’s shutdown aren’t just throwing energy workers under the bus, but also our security of supply for the gas we will still need on the road to 2050.”

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