Ministers are set to approve a new North Sea oil and gas project months before Britain hosts a global climate change conference in Glasgow.

The new oilfield would operate in the North Sea until 2050, by which time Britain has vowed to be net carbon neutral. CARINA JOHANSEN/NTB SCANPIX/VIA REUTERS

Under proposals submitted to the government, developers behind the Cambo heavy crude field off the coast of the Shetland Islands expect to extract 150 million barrels of oil — roughly equivalent to operating 16 coal-fired power stations for a year.

Setting up and powering the oil rig will emit more than three million tonnes of carbon over the project’s lifetime.

The oilfield is expected to operate until 2050, by which time Britain has pledged to be net carbon neutral. However, the project will not be covered by the government’s “climate checkpoint”, which will assess whether new oilfield developments are “compatible with the UK’s climate change objectives”, because it was licensed for exploration in 2001 and 2004.

The development also goes against recommendations made by a government-commissioned report from the International Energy Agency, ahead of November’s Cop26 conference in Glasgow, that called for “no investment in new fossil fuel supply projects”. A report due tomorrow from the Committee on Climate Change is also expected to be critical of ministers’ progress in putting policies in place to meet the net-zero commitment.

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June 23, 2021