OIL from the Rosebank field will be sold on the international market rather than to UK consumers, the Westminster Government has admitted.

The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), the UK’s offshore oil and gas regulator, granted development and production consent for the project off Shetland in September.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said approval of drilling was the “right long-term decision” for UK energy security and would help prevent young people from growing up “dependent on foreign dictators” for energy security.

But, in a written answer to a parliamentary question, the UK Government appeared to accept private firms extracting the oil will sell the vast majority internationally.

READ MORE: Rosebank will be 'kick in the teeth' for energy-rich Shetland, says councillor

The UK Government said: “Due to UK refinery specifications and global market conditions, around 80% of the oil produced in the UK is refined overseas into the products demanded by the UK market. It is not desirable to force private companies to ‘allocate’ oil and gas produced in the North Sea for domestic use.”

Equinor – the majority owner of Rosebank and state-owned Norwegian firm - had previously confirmed what is produced would be sold at world market prices and will not cut energy prices for UK consumers.

The field has the potential to produce 500 million barrels of oil in its lifetime which, when burned, would emit as much carbon dioxide as running 56 coal-fired power stations for a year.

Last month campaign groups Greenpeace and Uplift announced separate legal challenges to the project which will be heard early this year.

Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle, who submitted the parliamentary question, said: “This government’s answer proves Rosebank is not about supplying the UK with oil and gas, it’s purely another gimmick designed to appeal to a section of the electorate which has no concern for either the future of the planet or their own children.

“But that is why we need to plan the transition carefully and fairly, not abandon it and add yet more carbon pollution to the atmosphere.”

It comes after Shetland Green councillor Alex Armitage told The National people in the islands will not accept Rosebank in the way they perhaps would have done 10 years ago, insisting attitudes towards fossil fuels are changing in the isles.

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He said: “This is a much more controversial issue than it used to be. Shetland has done very well out of oil and gas for 50 years and it’s part of our culture, but that culture is starting to change.”

Armitage added the field was never going to boost the UK’s energy security.

He said: “It’s clear this oil is being sold on the international market and is not going to help us domestically with our energy security.

“The UK Government is giving a massive tax cut to Equinor to develop this field too. We are haemorrhaging benefits and money left right and centre with this field.”

Equinor is in line for a massive £2.8m tax break, campaigners have claimed, thanks to a loophole in the UK's windfall tax.

The Norwegian firm pledged to invest around £3.1 billion to develop Rosebank but will be allowed to claw back £91.40 for every £100 they put in.