The British energy giant announced on Monday that it will develop the Jackdaw gas field, 150 kilometres east of Aberdeen in Scotland, which is expected to come online by 2025. At peak production rates, Shell predicts the gas field could provide up to six percent of UK gas output. It comes after the North Sea Transition Authority gave the go-ahead for the site back in June.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said the move will “boost domestic gas supply in the years to come”.
It comes amid a crippling energy crisis which has seen bills soaring for millions of Britons as supply cuts from Russia send shockwaves through the market.
While the UK only gets around four to five percent of its gas from Russia, the integrated nature of the market has meant that the squeezes were felt in Britain.
Now with bills expected to soar further in October as the price cap (maximum annual tariff) could reach £3,200 according to industry regulator Ofgem, the Government has been urged to come up with a long-term plan to shore up energy security.
While campaigners have argued that focusing on boosting domestic gas supplies goes against the UK’s net zero targets, chair of the Lords economic affairs committee George Bridges has argued that North Sea investment “should be enabled”.
This is despite identifying that the “planning system in England needs to include energy security alongside climate change objectives”.
In an opinion piece for the Financial Times, in which he argued the UK has “no plan” for clean or affordable energy, he wrote: “Meanwhile, more investment in the North Sea should be enabled, while ensuring any extension of oil and gas exploration or investment focuses on projects with short lead times and payback periods, limiting the risk of stranded assets.”
But for climate campaigners, any attention to opening new gas fields should be done away with due to the immediacy of the environmental crisis.
Greenpeace has now lodged a legal challenge over consent being given to the development of the Jackdaw site.
Philip Evans from Greenpeace UK said: “This Jackdaw approval is a scandal.
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“The government knows that burning fossil fuels drives the climate crisis, yet they’re approving a new gas field in June, without proper climate checks, and declaring a national emergency over heatwaves in July.
“We’re taking legal action to stop Jackdaw, and whenever we see the government acting unlawfully to greenlight new fossil fuels, we stand ready to fight in the courts.”
But Conservative Peer Lord Daniel Moylan tweeted: “Time to recognise that we will need gas for many years to come and we should be taking it from domestic sources, not overly depending on imports.”
A Whitehall source has also signalled the importance of the UK focusing on its domestic energy sources amid the crisis.
The source told said: “Choking off domestic oil and gas does nothing to reduce demand, it simply leaves Britain more reliant on foreign imports, more vulnerable to supply shocks, and more exposed to Kremlin attempts to weaponise the gas market.
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“The only people who want to stop North Sea production are Greenpeace activists and Putin.”
In 2021, imports of gas, oil and coal from Russia to the UK made up a combined £4.5 billion.
But instead of continuing to extract the UK’s own fossil fuels from its reserves, which emits fossil fuels and harms the environment, energy experts EG3 argue that energy efficiency measures for homes could cut Russian gas imports by 80 percent this year.
In a report by the climate think tank, the ‘Home Energy Security Plan’ included proposed measures such as boosted funding for energy efficiency and heat pumps and cutting VAT on green home measures.
It also suggested accelerating plans to make sure all new build homes are zero carbon, as well as removing legacy policy costs from electricity bills.